Griffith Champions Amendment to Defend Civil Liberties, Protect Lawful Transportation of Firearms

House Passes Sportsmen’s Bill with Griffith Amendment

Friday, February 26, 2016 | Andie Pivarunas (202-225-3861)
“Current federal law or the Second Amendment of the Constitution should neither be misinterpreted nor ignored to prevent law-abiding, responsible gun owners from traveling throughout the country with firearms so long as they are in compliance with federal law while in transit. I am pleased my colleagues have joined me in supporting this amendment, and will continue working to protect Second Amendment protections for law abiding gun owners, hunters, and sportsmen.”

Today, in a vote of 242 to 161, the House of Representatives passed the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act (H.R. 2406), a package of bills that aims to protect Second Amendment rights and guarantee Americans ample access to federal lands in order to hunt, fish, and recreationally shoot.  Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA-09) introduced an amendment to the bill that would strengthen federal protections for law-abiding Americans traveling with firearms.  The amendment, which was based on Griffith’s standalone legislation entitled the Protecting Lawful Transportation of Firearms Act (H.R. 131), passed in a vote of 239 to 165.  While the amendment was supported by the bill’s chief sponsor, Congressman Rob Wittman (R-VA-01), opposition to the amendment was led by Congressman Don Beyer (R-VA-08).

Griffith said, “Current federal law or the Second Amendment of the Constitution should neither be misinterpreted nor ignored to prevent law-abiding, responsible gun owners from traveling throughout the country with firearms so long as they are in compliance with federal law while in transit.  I am pleased my colleagues have joined me in supporting this amendment, and will continue working to protect Second Amendment protections for law abiding gun owners, hunters, and sportsmen.”

Video can be viewed here of Griffith speaking today on the floor of the House in support of his amendment.

BACKGROUND:

In 1986, Congress passed the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA), which included protections for individuals transporting firearms between places where they are legally allowed to have them (18 U.S.C. § 926A).  While most states comply with FOPA’s ‘safe passage’ provision, some states continue to harass and detain travelers who are abiding by federal law.  Additionally, because of numerous improper prosecutions, a cottage industry of lawyers handling the defense of these cases has developed around New York City airports.

The National Rifle Association, which supports the Griffith amendment, cites these recent examples:

  • In 2004, the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) arrested John Torraco at LaGuardia Airport for possession of a firearm. Torraco, an attorney and law professor from Florida, had stored his legally owned unloaded handgun in his checked luggage.  However, when he declared the firearm to the counter agent (as required by federal law), he was arrested and charged with possession of an unlicensed handgun.
  • In 2005, William Winstanley, a New York state resident, was detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport when he attempted to check a handgun in his luggage, again in compliance with the requirements of § 926A.  Winstanley was not arrested, but his travel was delayed for several days while he proved that he was in compliance with federal law.
  • In 2005, Greg Revell, a Utah resident, was flying through Newark Liberty International Airport to his final destination in Pennsylvania.  However, his flight into New Jersey was late, which caused him to miss his connecting flight.  Revell was forced to collect his baggage and spend the night in a Newark hotel.  When he attempted to recheck his baggage the following morning, he declared the unloaded handgun to the counter agent.  PAPD officers arrested Revell for illegal possession of a handgun and ammunition under New Jersey law.  Revell spent three days in jail before he was able to make bail.
  • In 2010, Lt. Augustine Kim was arrested in Washington, D.C. for possession of a firearm, spent a night in jail, and had his guns confiscated.  Kim was in transit between New Jersey and South Carolina and had his guns locked in a case in the trunk.  Kim, who had been injured during a tour of duty in Afghanistan, had stopped at Walter Reed for a doctor’s appointment and was later pulled over in D.C.  After months of litigation, Kim agreed to plead guilty to one misdemeanor unregistered gun charge, which was later dismissed.  Nonetheless, Kim’s guns were not returned to him by D.C. authorities until nearly two years after he was arrested.

Griffith’s amendment puts an end to these practices and makes it clear that the rights of American citizens can no longer be ignored.  A responsible gun owner legally transporting a firearm, stopping overnight, filling up at the gas station, or stopping for an emergency would be protected.  The legal burden of providing a violation would now fall to the states, where it belongs, and provides for the possibility of compensation for those unlawfully prosecuted.

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