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Old January 18, 2011, 11:01 AM   #1
thallub
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SCOTUS Declines to Hear Gun Arrest Appeal

This Utah man got stranded in the Newark, NJ airport. He made a boo-boo and took possession of his luggage that contained a gun. The SCOTUS has declined to hear the appeal of his arrest.

Quote:
Revell was flying from Salt Lake City to Allentown, Pa., on March 31, 2005, with connections in Minneapolis and Newark, N.J. He had checked his Utah-licensed gun and ammunition with his luggage in Salt Lake City and asked airport officials to deliver them both with his luggage in Allentown.

......................... Revell missed his connection to Allentown. The airline wanted to bus its passengers to Allentown, but Revell realized that his luggage had not made it onto the bus and got off. After finding his luggage had been given a final destination of Newark by mistake, Revell missed the bus. He collected his luggage, including his gun and ammunition, and decided to wait in a nearby hotel with his stuff until the next flight in the morning.

When Revell tried to check in for the morning flight, he again informed the airline officials about his gun and ammunition to have them checked through to Allentown. He was reported to the TSA, and then arrested by Port Authority police for having a gun in New Jersey without a New Jersey license.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110118/...urt_gun_arrest

Last edited by thallub; January 18, 2011 at 12:03 PM.
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Old January 18, 2011, 11:18 AM   #2
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It seems that he didn't do his homework before accepting the connecting flight schedules.
Whenever I travel with my guns, I ALWAYS verify my route against individual state's gun laws, just to be on the safe side.
There must be protocol for a situation like this one, and ignorance is no excuse.
On the other hand, if there was no precedent, then it seems a bit over the top.
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Old January 18, 2011, 01:44 PM   #3
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IIRC, SCOTUS declined to hear the appeal on his law suit, not arrest.. The charges against him were dropped, but he didn't get his firearms returned for something like two years.
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Old January 18, 2011, 02:25 PM   #4
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It seems like the airline dropped the ball by directing this man's luggage to the wrong destination. I don't think the law should have come down like a sack of bricks on the guy; there are no published guidelines for what to do in such a situation. Yes, we can sit here and say "well he should have immediately contacted security and asked for guidance" but... think about it. You're stuck at the airport, you just missed your flight, you just missed the bus connection because the airline screwed up with your baggage. Could a person really be expected to carefully consider the finer points of law in a state he was supposed to spend only a short time passing through, after getting the shaft from the good old transportation industry, when the 'proper course of action' was not made available to study up on in the first place?

Remember, transport of firearms in checked luggage is covered by federal law. That does not include provisions for what to do when you get screwed over by the airline in NJ... or Illinois, or any other place that requires one of those silly firearms owner IDs. TSA's website does not have any information about what to do in a situation like this. No agency in NJ has any published information on the subject either (no surprise there). Neither do any of the major airlines. Handgunlaw.us is useless on the issue. The NRA has nothing to say about it. Nobody seems to have anticipated this case, and nobody has published any helpful tips in response to it either. It appears to be either the first case of its kind, or that one little detail that nobody cares to address.

I'm sorry, but this has stupid written all over it. Yeah, the charges were dropped, but this is one of those 'fell through the cracks' cases that shouldn't have happened in the first place. The guy effectively got railroaded by circumstance into breaking a state law- which is a debatable point in itself, since he had every reason to believe he was covered by federal law- and had no way of knowing he was doing so until the cops showed up. If the arrest stands as legitimate, then a precedent is established and gun owners from other states are risking their freedom every single time they connect a flight through NJ. Does that sound reasonable to you by any standard?

Shame on the courts for neglecting to address a critical gap in the law, shame on the police for making an unnecessary arrest, and shame on the twerp of a desk clerk who called them for being a typical NJ hoplophobe who- forgive the expression- jumped the gun not knowing the circumstances.
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Old January 18, 2011, 03:55 PM   #5
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Note to self

Never, ever, for any reason whatsoever, set foot in New Jersey again. Born and raised there; I'll never go back. I'm with you, silentargus. No way in hell could a traveler reasonably be expected to foresee such a complete goat-roping as happened here. Can anyone count how many individual screw-ups put him at that counter on that morning with a now-"illegal" firearm in his luggage?

Thanks, KLRANGL, that's a rather important distinction.
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Old January 18, 2011, 05:37 PM   #6
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I think there is some confusion here. This was not a decision regarding his criminal case per se (the charges were eventually dropped) but, instead, over whether he could sue the Transit Authority over the arrest and their confiscation of his firearm.
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Old January 18, 2011, 06:00 PM   #7
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Why shouldn't he be allowed to sue? Cripes the guy was railroaded by a state law which should be trumped by federal law, since he was engaged in Interstate Commerce (as in flying between several states). Don't the feds claim complete control anytime interstate commerce is involved? I'm not a lawyer, I'm just sayin'. The charges were dropped, meaning the NJ authorities must have eventually realized that they were off base in arresting and charging the guy. That should have meant an immediate return of his firearm. At a very minimum, he should be compensated for what it would cost to replace his firearm. I'd want to replace it, especially if it was the only one I owned and relied on it for self defense.

I'm sure there are some people who know the law and can tell us why the USSC court turned their heads and coughed regarding this guy. However, when the myriad of laws in place unjustly catches an honest citizen who was trying to follow the law and merely made a mistake, the "system" should be fair enough to overlook his transgressions. That poor guy went through the hell in the US, called New Jersey. I've been there many times. Don't think I'll be going back anytime soon.
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Old January 18, 2011, 07:19 PM   #8
Frank Ettin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by USAFNoDak
Why shouldn't he be allowed to sue? .... I'm not a lawyer, I'm just sayin'...
Nonetheless, he's had his day in court. It didn't work out for him, and he's pretty much at the end of the line.

There are probably all kinds of reasons why he can't proceed with a suit, and they've all been set out in the court decisions thus far.
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Old January 18, 2011, 11:28 PM   #9
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The district judge makes a strong case in her final dismissal of the suit, that there were little or no factual allegations in the complaint (original or amended). There were numerous conclusions as to law, but little actual fact.

You can download the final dismissal, here.

This case amounts to many procedural mistakes and is most likely the reason the SCOTUS denied cert.
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Old January 18, 2011, 11:58 PM   #10
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Quote:
There were numerous conclusions as to law, but little actual fact.
Having read the dismissal, I agree. Not a good case for review by the Supreme Court. This was actually a suit by a gun club for injunctive relief and NOT a suit by the individual who was arrested (charges later dropped).
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Old January 19, 2011, 01:57 AM   #11
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Back when the firearms were still supposed to be cased and carried by the pilot of the aircraft, with an orange sticker which blared "FIREARM", a friend of mine T.J.Johnston, who was an NRA Director at the time, found himself in a similar position.

He checked in at LAX and very dutifully declared his firearms -- all fourteen of them -- prior to boarding. He got some interesting looks from other passengers.

He boarded the plane and when he got to his first destination he went to the security desk to claim the firearms. He was informed that they were not on the aircraft and that the pilot never received them. He asked them to find out what happened and to call him as quickly as they could to get him reunited with his firearms.

He borrowed several firearms from a friend and held the firearms training classes he had come there for. He was also going to DC where he was to attend an NRA director's meeting.

He got a call from the LAPD and they told him that the firearms had not only been recovered but that they had, as a result of this loss, broken up a major theft ring at LAX.

It turns out that after he registered all of the firearms with the check in clerk, she had simply placed them on the luggage belt and down they went to the baggage handling area. She was supposed to sequester the firearms.

So this guy at the bottom of the conveyor must have thought he had died and gone to heaven because here come fourteen cased firearms. As fast as they got to him he stashed them under the conveyor. Another thief saw him doing this and stole the stolen firearms from the first guy. The first guy got his feelings hurt and snitched off the second guy. The second guy then snitched off the first guy, and by the time it was all said and done they had about ten people in custody.

The LAPD was absolutely ecstatic at this fortuitous turn of events and told T.J. that they would get his firearms to him as soon as the airline could pick them up. T.J. was in contact with he airline so they could contact him when they got the firearms.

In the meantime, T.J. made his way to DC for the director's meeting when here comes a knock at his hotel door and this guy from the airline is standing there with a big box. T.J. signs for the box and then immediately gets on the phone to a friend in VA and tells him "I'm sitting here in DC with fourteen handguns. I need to get these things out of here!"

So the friend came and got the box and got it out of DC and everything went smoothly from that point.

As it turned out, the firearms, when recovered, were in the hold of a Lufthansa flight to Germany which was about to take off. The only thing that had been done to his firearms was the grips on all of them had been removed which we speculated was to look for drugs. He reassembled them and returned to CA where he related this story to our firearms group.

So bad things do happen to nice people for the strangest reasons.
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Old January 19, 2011, 04:51 PM   #12
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Quote:
Remember, transport of firearms in checked luggage is covered by federal law.
Guy was on a bus to PA found his luggage wasnt so he got off the bus (transportation) and recovered his luggage then went to a hotel in NJ and stayed the night then went back to the airport with luggage containing a gun, no permit to have it so he was in violation of the law. A huge hole in the thing. Why didnt he take a cab? for that short drive?

A clear violation of the law, but the folks felt he wasnt all that bad and dropped his charges. He is lucky he even got the gun back. Travellors must follow the laws.
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Old January 19, 2011, 05:41 PM   #13
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Quote:
Guy was on a bus to PA found his luggage wasnt so he got off the bus (transportation) and recovered his luggage then went to a hotel in NJ and stayed the night then went back to the airport with luggage containing a gun, no permit to have it so he was in violation of the law. A huge hole in the thing. Why didnt he take a cab? for that short drive?
I'm confused here.....what "short drive"? Are you saying, take a cab from Newark to Allentown? 82 miles, an hour and a half, and you say take a cab?

Quote:
A clear violation of the law, but the folks felt he wasnt all that bad and dropped his charges. He is lucky he even got the gun back. Travellors must follow the laws.
And just what was he supposed to do? He got screwed by their mistakes
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Old January 20, 2011, 10:27 AM   #14
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If stranded in a jurisdiction where your luggage contains an item you are not allowed to have REFUSE your luggage and tell the airline why. Do not even pick it up from the conveyor. Do not touch it. As soon as you take possession without directly travelling out of said jurisdiction you are at the mercy of the local possession laws. You state that taking possession in this
jurisdiction would put you in violation of the law. It is the airline's job to get the luggage to it's destination. If they squak then call the police but do not touch that bag while it contains a prohibited item.

There is NOTHING in the checked bag that you cannot get by a day or two without. You never put critical medicine in checked luggage anyway and if you do you are only acting out Darwin's principals. Hotels can provide toiletries. You can wash your own clothes or use the hotel's service. You can even buy new clothes in a pinch. I know, the airline lost my luggage for two days after flying in to Singapore from NY for work (24 hrs travel time in same clothes!)

It sucks and isn't fair but that's life.
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Old January 20, 2011, 11:54 PM   #15
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How many other people have been shafted in NJ? We see these few high profile cases but how many others get persecuted every day that don't make the news?

I don't travel much, but if I do, I will avoid NJ if possible. If I have to drive through, I will buy gas before & after. No meals at their restaurants. I will not order products from NJ companies.

Isn't NJ a major home of organized crime? You'd think gun control would send the Mafia looking for a new home, ha ha ha.
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Old January 21, 2011, 02:19 AM   #16
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It's not as easy as saying "I will not fly through X, Y or Z". Your flight can easily get diverted and what you thought was a plan to land in PA turns into NJ. The same for IN but ending up in IL.
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Old January 21, 2011, 06:47 PM   #17
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Quote:
Isn't NJ a major home of organized crime?
Around here we call it politics.

Kidding aside...

It'll take a major SCOTUS ruling to get rid of NJ's silly gun laws. The anti-culture is too strongly entrenched here for common sense to prevail in Trenton.

Seems like every time somebody gets thrown in jail on firearms charges they didn't deserve, it happens in NJ. The laws are so broadly defined and vague that their interpretation is down to the personal opinions of the prosecutor and arresting officers. I'm sure we haven't seen the last innocent gun owner get screwed in the Garden State. Not as long as the authorities think that gun ownership in itself should be a crime.

It's nice to see that there are cases so clearly bogus that even NJ won't pursue them, though. At the end of the day, I'm glad this man got to go home to his family, and that he can seek the return of his stolen property as a free man. Hopefully he'll have learned his lesson and get a flight that connects through a civilized state next time... and tell everyone he knows to do likewise.
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Old January 22, 2011, 12:18 AM   #18
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As I have commented in other discussions about this case, it points out a major flaw in the FOPA. The Firearms Owners Protection Act was supposed to make it possible for lawful owners of firearms to travel from one jurisdiction to another without hassle, even if passing through intermediate jurisdictions where the firearm(s) might not be allowed.

That was the intent.

Unfortunately, the drafters of the bill were a bit short-sighted, and overlooked the fact that people sometimes travel by means other than private automobile. If you read the FOPA, the language appears clear as to the intent, but the specific provisions do not cover anything other than automobiles.

The FOPA is in the US Code, Title 18, Chapter 44, Section 926A:
Quote:
Sec. 926A. Interstate transportation of firearms

Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or
regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person
who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting,
shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a
firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully
possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully
possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the
firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being
transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the
passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle: Provided, That in
the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver's
compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked
container other than the glove compartment or console.
Notice that it starts off clearly overriding state and local laws: "Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose ..."

Actually, a commercial airplane meets the criteria. The gentleman had his firearm in a locked container (that's required by the rules for flying with firearms), and the baggage hold of a plane is separate from the passenger compartment. It's pretty obvious why the prosecutor elected to drop the charges. The case was a non-starter, because even if he got a conviction, he was going to get hammered on appeal.

But NYC and NJ are so anti-gun that they typically don't let little things like Federal laws stop them from harassing lawful firearms owners.
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Old January 22, 2011, 08:48 AM   #19
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Quote:
Unfortunately, the drafters of the bill were a bit short-sighted, and overlooked the fact that people sometimes travel by means other than private automobile. If you read the FOPA, the language appears clear as to the intent, but the specific provisions do not cover anything other than automobiles.
Automobiles are not mentioned one single time in the text you provided... However, it does mention vehicles...


Quote:
Vehicle: ve·hi·cle –noun
1. any means in or by which someone travels or something is carried or conveyed; a means of conveyance or transport: a motor vehicle; space vehicles.
A commercial or private plane is a vehicle and is covered by the law. It is likely that it took the pinheaded prosecutor a while to realize that they could not 'make an example' of evil, scary, hillbilly, law-breaking, trigger happy 'morons' known as gun owners... At least not using this case as their canvas... :barf::barf::barf:

Quote:
But NYC and NJ are so anti-gun that they typically don't let little things like Federal laws stop them from harassing lawful firearms owners.
Exactly....
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Old January 22, 2011, 02:46 PM   #20
Aguila Blanca
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jgcoastie
Automobiles are not mentioned one single time in the text you provided... However, it does mention vehicles...

Quote:
Vehicle: ve·hi·cle –noun
1. any means in or by which someone travels or something is carried or conveyed; a means of conveyance or transport: a motor vehicle; space vehicles.
A commercial or private plane is a vehicle and is covered by the law.
But the FOPA then goes on to define specific criteria:
Quote:
Originally Posted by FOPA
... Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver's compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.
The specific references describe only an automobile. Unfortunately, that tends to muddy the overall intent of the law.

The law also fails to address situations involving overnight stops. Some people on some forums take a very conservative view that the FOPA does not allow for stopping ... or else that on a multi-day trip by car each day constitutes a separate journey, so you can't stop for the night in a jurisdiction where you're not legal. I don't subscribe to that draconian view, but I'm also not certain enough about the legality of overnight stops that I'd volunteer to be a test case.

And it was an overnight stop in a jursisdiction where he wasn't legal that trapped this gentlemen. Regardless of whether commercial aircraft are or aren't covered by the FOPA, it totally omits any mention of overnight stays, and/or having to temporarily assume custody of the locked case containing the weapon for lawful purposes in the normal course of travel ... such as changing planes, or missing a connection and having to spend the night in an airport hotel. He wasn't arrested while in a vehicle; he was arrested while trying to re-check his luggage that contained a firearm, properly secured in accordance with the FOPA requirements.
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Old January 22, 2011, 06:47 PM   #21
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Yes the law could have been written clearer. Perhaps when we have a President more willing to sign a law which clarifies the situation in our favor we can push it.

Stupid as it is though he took possession of a firearm in a state where he was prohibited from doing so. Sorry but he should never have touched that bag and it was his responsibility to know that.

I am glad the charges were dropped and happy he got his property back but like it or not he was in violation of the law when he picked up that bag. Stupid, yes but it was the law.
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Old January 22, 2011, 10:35 PM   #22
Aguila Blanca
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If we agree that the law is unclear, how could he have been expected to "know" that he should not have retrieved his luggage? After all, he was in transit from one legal jurisdiction to another. His trip did not start or end in New York. Changes of flights and missed connections are common occurrences when flying. It certainly was not the INTENT of the FOPA that a traveler who missed a connection and had to sleep in a hotel overnight could not retrieve his pajamas and toothbrush because his legally-declared and cased firearm happened to be in the same suitcase.

Further, if he was so clearly in violation of the law, I seriously doubt the prosecutor would have dropped the charges.

I do agree that this case shows there are flaws in the language of the FOPA, and I think what happened to Mr. Revell sends up red flags for the rest of us to be aware of ... but I don't think he can or should be criticized for believing that he was within his rights and within the law for proceeding as he did.
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Old January 23, 2011, 03:27 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aguila Blanca
The specific references describe only an automobile. Unfortunately, that tends to muddy the overall intent of the law.
Not exactly... Though this point could be open to differing interpretation...

Quote:
Originally Posted by FOPA
....if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded,
Check. TSA ensures firearms checked as luggage are unloaded (or at least they're supposed to).
Quote:
Originally Posted by FOPA
and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being
transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the
passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle:
Check. Cargo/luggage areas are inaccessible to passengers and aircrew.

Thus, this next section is null and void in this argument (IMO). We're really just talking about airplanes and this section only offers additional guidance for instances where the firearms and/or ammunition cannot be separated by a fixed/installed barrier. Think of an SUV, it's all one compartment...
Quote:
Originally Posted by FOPA
Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver's compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.

Of course, none of this would have helped the traveler in question as he took possession of the firearms in a state where he was not allowed to do so. I'm just trying to explain where I was coming from with my previous post.
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Old January 23, 2011, 03:16 PM   #24
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I believe the Appeals Court ruled against him because he tried to use FOPA as an affirmative defense but the court found he had "access" to his firearm while in the hotel overnight. Therefore under NJ law he was guilty. The charges were dropped but he filed under Federal 1983 civil rights violation and lost. He probaly should hve left it at that, but who knows.

It seems like the court's problem was his "access". They didn't even address his overnight stay. This leads me to believe he would have been ok if he had lefts bag at the airport even though he spent the night.

I believe the precedent has been establised in the 3rd circuit at least that the problem isn't stopping overnight, it's access to your firearm. Maybe if it's left locked in your car you'll be ok. But circuit court rulings are only binding on other District Courts in that circuit.

However IANAL
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Old January 23, 2011, 05:13 PM   #25
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The prosecutor dropped it because of the outrage over the nonsense of it all. The victim though did knowingly take possession of his firearm in a jurisdiction where he was prohibited by law from doing so. The old "ignorance is no excuse" comes into play. Would a jury have convicted? By the facts alone, they should have. By their feelings and outrage argue scenario, possibly not.

Laws do not have to be "right" or "make sense" to be enforced. If you are traveling with firearms it is your responsibility to know the laws in every jurisdiction you intend to enter, possibly may enter or simply wind up in. If you are uncertain after getting stuck in a place you are unfamiliar with the do not accept the bag and approach the airline with the problem.
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