Federal lawmakers are reviewing bills that would amend the Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA). FOPA is a historic piece of gun rights legislation. In the 1980s, the Act amended existing ambiguous provisions of the Gun Control Act of 1968 that exposed individuals to a number of risks. These risks included criminal prosecution without a mandate for proof of criminal intent, gun dealer license revocation—even for subjects found not guilty, lack of privacy of dealer records, mass gun confiscations, and more.
Now, more than three decades later, proposed legislation may change FOPA again. The current discussions also involve amending vague provisions and expanding the rights of individuals. H.R. 358 and S. 618, the latter referred to as the Lawful Interstate Transportation Firearms Act, propose modifications to the interstate transportation of firearms and ammunition.
Both pieces propose to:
- Require firearms or ammunition transported by motor vehicle to remain inaccessible from the passenger compartment of the vehicle. Vehicles that lack a separate compartment would be required to lock the firearm in a container “other than the glove compartment or console” or utilize a gun storage or safety device.
- Apply restrictions to possession, transport, and shipment. Define ‘transport’ with a number of commonly associated matters: overnight stays in temporary lodging, “stopping for food, fuel, vehicle maintenance, an emergency, medical treatment, and any other activity incidental to the transport.”
In its current form, Section 926A of Chapter 44 of Title 18, United States Code, the Act addresses firearms transport only and does not clearly define ‘transport.’ The bills propose ammunition transport be included in regulations, clarify the appropriate storage measures, specify the types of ammunition subject to the restrictions (including detachable magazines and feeding devices), and apply a wider meaning to ‘transport.’
The proposed amendments to FOPA would prevent law-abiding gunowners who legally transport firearms or ammunitions from facing violations with conflicting state-level legislation that may be present in the jurisdictions they travel through. If a state pursues charges against an individual, one of the proposed amendments offers reimbursement of attorney fees in cases that rule in the individual’s favor.
A number of cases have occurred that involve arrests of gun owners legally possessing and transporting firearms. The individuals are arrested when they travel through states with highly restrictive gun laws, commonly New York and New Jersey. The FOPA changes would help prevent similar issues.
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