Member Story: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

No good deed, or in this case, “good warning shot” goes unpunished.

Imagine spending two years of your life fighting a charge for defusing a violent fistfight in your front yard. That’s exactly what happened to one LawShield member in 2016.

One evening in the Fall of 2016, a LawShield member went out for dinner with her husband and his brother. Like any family, differences of opinion can arise, and the member’s husband and his brother began an argument on the way home. When they arrived at their residence, the member went inside the home and began to get ready for bed.

The next thing she heard was a loud argument in her front yard. She looked out of her window and saw her husband and his brother locked in a bloody fistfight. She then ran outside and pleaded with the men to stop fighting. They wouldn’t listen.

The member ran back into her bedroom, retrieved her handgun, and walked out of the front door. She again shouted, “Stop fighting.” But they continued brawling. The member, fearing the fight would escalate further, pointed her firearm down to the ground and away from the direction of the men and her neighbors’ homes. She fired directly into the soft ground.

The men immediately stopped fighting. Understandably, a concerned neighbor called the police when he heard the gunshot. The police arrived, rushed their investigation, and instead of arresting either man, arrested the member for deadly conduct; recklessly engaging in conduct that placed another in imminent danger of serious bodily injury.

There was absolutely no direct, circumstantial, or forensic evidence showing that the member’s shot into the ground placed any person in imminent danger of suffering serious bodily injury. The evidence showed only that the bullet went into the ground, away from any buildings or people.

However, based on the responding officers’ assumptions and misunderstanding of the law, the member was arrested. The member’s nightmare was just beginning. Countless court settings and two years later, prosecutors finally dismissed her case because they couldn’t find any evidence to corroborate the alleged crime.

As you can see, the police and even prosecutors can sometimes misunderstand the facts and the law. Luckily, the member had an Independent Program Attorney armed with the knowledge to defend her and obtain dismissal of her criminal charge.

While this member was reasonable in her actions that night, and ultimately her case was dismissed, you should never fire a warning shot, unless you’re up for a long and hard fight for your freedom.

3D-Printed Guns: What is The Law?

3D-printed guns are a hot-button issue. The Liberator took center stage in 2013 when blueprints were released for this 3D-printed, fully-operational single-shot pistol. The inventor of the Liberator, Cody Wilson, started a company called Defense Distributed for the purpose of sharing his invention with the world. Thousands downloaded the blueprints, allowing them to print a plastic gun on a compatible 3D printer.

The federal government quickly took down the blueprints, stating that providing blueprints online was illegal trafficking of firearms. Additionally, the federal government argued that the Liberator, being that it is printed entirely from plastic, isn’t detectable by standard metal detectors, making it illegal under federal law.

Cody Wilson responded by filing a lawsuit for the violation of his First Amendment right to free speech. He argued that the source code is a form of speech and he has a right to share it with the world. Government censorship would be unconstitutional; and so, this case was settled prior to reaching the Supreme Court. Without guidance from the highest court, we may see some legal battles on the horizon.

So, are these 3D printed guns even legal to build?

Yes. Americans have always been able to manufacture their own firearms and 3D-printed guns aren’t any different. Just like machining parts to build your own AR-15, you can use the blueprints of the Liberator to print your own polymer pistol.

While federal law freely allows individuals to make firearms, for their personal use, in light of the 3D-printed gun technology, some states that embrace anti-gun laws are beginning to discuss legislation that will prevent people from building their own guns.

For example, New Jersey has drafted and passed a ban on homemade firearms that is not yet law, and California, while not prohibiting them outright, requires them to be serialized and registered. So be sure to get in touch with your state’s U.S. LawShield Independent Program Attorney for the current status of your state’s law.

It is important to keep in mind that these items are still firearms. Even though you can print one in the comfort of your own home, if you are disqualified from possessing a firearm you cannot possess a 3D-printed gun either.

You cannot sell these firearms as part of a commercial business without first becoming a licensed manufacturer. There is no bright line here. If you decide to manufacture 80 guns for private sale you might start to look like an unlicensed firearm dealer and you’ll find yourself subject to some unwanted legal scrutiny.

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding 3D-printed guns and you will likely see headlines in the near future addressing some of the remaining legal issues. In the meantime, U.S. & Texas LawShield will always keep you informed with the latest in gun laws, safety, and stories from our members across the nation.

Traveling with Firearms: National Edition

As a member of the U.S. LawShield family, you’re undoubtedly well-versed in your state’s firearms laws, but what if you have travel plans that take you beyond the borders of your home state? If you want to bring your firearm, it’s important to take the time to understand the laws of each state you plan to travel through.

Unfortunately, even if you have a license to carry or a handgun permit issued by your home state, there’s currently no national reciprocity. It’s very important to remember, when you’re a guest in another state, all of their laws apply to you, even those that limit the Second Amendment rights you enjoy at home. There’s no standardization of gun laws within the 50 individual states, the District of Columbia, not to mention Native American reservations and lands. Even states that are thought of as gun friendly have peculiar quirks in their firearms laws.

The firearms laws of each state are as varied as the natural wonders you might find on your travels. For example, in some states, constitutional carry is in effect, which essentially allows an adult who’s not otherwise prohibited by law from possessing a firearm to carry a gun openly in many public areas without the necessity of a license or permit. In other states, it’s illegal for a nonresident to even possess a firearm in the passenger compartment of their vehicle.

To help illustrate this further, please enjoy a few gun law quirks courtesy of a couple of states here in the Union. In Montana, you’re prohibited from carrying a firearm, openly or concealed, into any establishment that serves alcohol, period. And how about New Mexico, which restricts recognized permittees from carrying more than one concealed handgun on their person outside their home or vehicle at a time.

Beyond these oddities, there are some very serious crimes you could inadvertently commit simply by traveling into a state with different laws. For example, Colorado has a maximum 15-round magazine capacity limit. If you were to travel with your AR into Colorado and encounter law enforcement with an extended or high-capacity magazine, you’d most likely be taking a trip to the local jail and facing serious criminal penalties. We all know that California law is restrictive, but did you know that it’s a serious crime to import another state’s ammunition into the Golden State?

Luckily, many states have reciprocity agreements, or at least recognize other state’s licenses and permits to carry handguns. If you have any questions about whether your license or permit is recognized by another state, you should consult with that state’s chief law enforcement agency or attorney general’s website. It’s imperative that you check the laws of that state concerning legally traveling with your firearm. Take time to know the law.

Stay tuned for future videos featuring travel tips from U.S. LawShield Independent Program Attorneys from across the United States. In the meantime, if you have any questions about traveling with your firearms, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to an Independent Program Attorney.

Rules You Must Know When Inheriting Firearms in Colorado

I want to talk today about inheriting firearms. The question I am frequently asked is, whether or not you have to register an inherited firearm. There’s no requirement in Colorado to register firearms at all, so that would be a big no. Now, whether or not you need to have an FFL involved in the transfer is another question. In Colorado, there’s no requirement for you to use an FFL if it’s a transfer of the firearm between immediate family members—parent, child, brother, sister—that sort of thing.

Something else to keep in mind is that there are state and federal exemptions to using an FFL to assist with the transfer of a firearm following the death of a loved one. This is a very technical area of the law and is case-specific, so please reach out and talk to us before you try to do this on your own.

Now, in terms of an antique firearm, if your firearm qualifies as an antique, you don’t need to use an FFL at all. There are very specific federal requirements to determine whether or not your firearm is a relic or an antique, call my office to discuss those requirements.

The last thing to discuss is, whether or not you are prohibited from owning a firearm. You could be prohibited for a number of reasons. One, you have a prior felony conviction or a conviction for domestic violence. In those situations, there’s no way for you to get a firearm legally, unless you have a pardon, either from the President of the United States or the governor of your state, depending on where the conviction was. Two, you could be prohibited due to some sort of mental health or addiction issue. If the prohibition is due to either some sort of mental health or addiction issue, there are ways to appeal that. We’ve been successful in helping clients with that in the past, and you’re welcome to call my office to get some information on that.

Can I Be Arrested for Shooting an Attacking Dog in Colorado?

Doug Richards here for U.S. LawShield of Colorado. I want to talk to you today about an issue that has come up quite a bit lately and has become a problem for one of our U.S. LawShield Members in particular. That is, whether or not you can shoot a dog or another animal that is about to attack you or do you have to wait for the animal to actually attack you? It’s kind of a gray area in Colorado law.

Under Colorado law, there’s no specific statute that allows you to discharge a firearm on any animal that’s either attacking you or attacking your dog. But the law in Colorado would allow you to use self-defense, including deadly force to protect yourself or a third party from what you reasonably believe to be the use of deadly force by another person, or in this situation, an animal.

If you were walking in your neighborhood and a loose dog came out and was threatening you, you would be able to use deadly force to protect yourself against that animal, as long as it was reasonable under the circumstances. Now, you would not be able to articulate a reasonable explanation to law enforcement if you were just using deadly force or discharging your firearm to protect your own dog. However, if you could articulate that you were in fear that the attacking animal was going to turn its attention and aggression towards you, then you would be able to assert the use of deadly force in self-defense.

Now, there are other affirmative defenses you could use. There is no real necessity defense or affirmative defense in Colorado. Instead, we have something called the choice of evils. With the choice of evils defense, you’d be able to argue if you were being charged with a crime, that you really had no other choice under the circumstances but to employ the use of deadly force, or to shoot this animal that was coming after you or threatening to attack you.

In terms of what you could be charged with, there’s a litany of charges. You could be charged with illegal discharge of a firearm or displaying of a firearm. Depending on the facts, if you were displaying it to somebody else, you could potentially be charged with menacing. All of these bring either misdemeanor or felony range charges and, more importantly, as a collateral consequence you could lose your CCW privileges as result of this. And we’ve had situations where clients are acquitted or the charges are dismissed, and then we’ve got to go back to the sheriff and try to get their license back, their CCW back. And that can be more difficult than you would imagine because the sheriff isn’t necessarily bound by the same burden of proof that the DA is bound by, when they are trying to prove this. Whether or not you’ve done this or not in a criminal form.

Getting your license back with the Sheriff is an administrative process. The sheriffs in my experience, really take the offense reports and whatever’s been written in those offense reports as gospel. Make sure you contact us at U.S. LawShield or me directly at my office, always happy to talk to U.S. LawShield Members about this or anything else.

Rules You Must Know When Inheriting Firearms in Virginia

There are three things you need to know when inheriting a firearm:

First, does my inherited firearm have to be registered? In Virginia, the answer is no, unless the firearm is regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Second, can I retrieve my inherited firearm from another state? 18, United States Code, 922, shall not preclude any person, who lawfully acquires a firearm by bequest, or intestate succession, in a state other than his state of residence, from transporting the firearm into, or receiving it, in that state, if it is lawful for such person to purchase or possess such firearm in that state.

The third point, is what if you are an ineligible person, to possess a firearm? If it is illegal for you to possess a firearm under the law, then you cannot physically possess it, even though you may have inherited it.

Can I Be Arrested for Shooting an Attacking Dog in Virginia

Can deadly force be used to protect yourself against an animal attack? The law of self-defense and the defense of others applies when you are faced with an animal attack. Virginia is a Stand Your Ground state. This means that if you did not start the fight or provoke the incident in any way, then you can stand your ground and defend yourself against your attacker without having to retreat. If you are without fault in provoking or bringing on the attack and you reasonably fear that you are in imminent danger of being killed or in imminent danger of great bodily harm and you use no more force than is reasonably necessary to protect yourself from the perceived harm or the attack under the circumstances as they appear to you, then your use of deadly force and self-defense is legally justified.

If you are involved in an event that requires you to defend yourself against an animal attack, which means you discharged your firearm, the odds are very high that it will be investigated by the authorities, and if it is investigated and they determine that it’s not self-defense, that you did not have a right to protect yourself, then you very well may be charged with something like cruelty to animals or the reckless handling of a firearm.

Rules You Must Know When Inheriting Firearms in Pennsylvania

One of the saddest phone calls that we get at U.S. LawShield is when a family member has passed. Our heart goes out, our condolences, but when it comes time to settle affairs, and to settle up possessions, inevitably there are questions that have to do with inheriting firearms and making sure we’re all on the right side of the law.

What we want to do in this video is talk about three specific things to know about inheriting firearms. First one is there is no federal or state registry. We get phone calls all the time, from people who are quite distraught, and they want to know how they can register a gun in their name. As we all know, or should know by now, there are no state or federal registries in Pennsylvania when it comes to firearms, so that’s an easy one.

The second has to do with an out-of-state transfer. Now, federal law makes an exception for the inheritance of an out-of-state transfer of a long gun, and may be completed without going through an FFL. So in other words, if someone in another state dies, and they send you, or they want to send you, a long gun, meaning a shotgun or a rifle, with traditional lengths involved with it, then there is no need to go through an FFL.

Now, it gets a little bit more confusing when it comes to handguns. Traditionally what we call handguns mean pistols, semiautomatic pistols, and also anything that would fall in the rubric of what we call in Pennsylvania firearms, or handguns. There are two provisions, 6111 of our Uniform Firearms Act and 6115 of our Firearms Act. Two separate and distinct statutes when it comes to an out-of-state transfer of a handgun that fall under that exception that have to do with inheritance, or bequest, or succession, and therefore an FFL is not needed.

However, there is a different school of thought that 6111 controls such things. 6111 contains our normal provisions that have to do with the transfer of a firearm, meaning a traditional handgun or revolver, in Pennsylvania, that it must go through an FFL. There is tension there. For peace of mind, it might make sense to go through an FFL in such a situation.

The third thing has to do with what happens when there is a prohibited person who is going to be the intended receiver of a firearm in a will or bequest, and in this case, firearm. By firearm, I mean long guns, shotguns, pistols, anything that basically goes bang, that would be covered by the Uniform Firearms Act.

Well, it’s really simple. If you’re a prohibited person, either through state or federal law, you can’t have a firearm. No will or anything that has to do with the transfer upon death can overcome your disability to own, possess, or use a firearm, and that’s just very simple. What happens in that case, if you’re the executor, you cannot knowingly transfer a firearm against the provisions of the Uniform Firearms Act, or also under federal law, you can’t violate that, obviously, so that prohibited person doesn’t get the firearms, and then what happens? The firearms would go to the next person that’s so named, or the residual of the estate as it’s called, the person who catches everything else, if you will.

So those are the three things that we want to go over with respect to when it comes to death and inheriting a firearm. There is no registration, out-of-state transfers, there’s that tension, and prohibited person, you can’t either receive, or you as the executor cannot distribute it.

Can I Be Arrested for Shooting an Attacking Dog in Pennsylvania?

I have a dog. I love dogs. But something that comes up frequently is, “What do I do if a dog is attacking me, or my dog or loved one?”

Under Pennsylvania law, it is lawful for you to shoot a dog if it’s attacking you or another person or your domestic animal. If that’s the case then there is no crime, and you can put down the attacking dog.

The animal cruelty statute recently changed, however. I remember back when I started my career it was very narrow and very tough to prove, but it’s been massively expanded. So, it’s worth talking about to make sure that we know what the law is. This way we can stay on the right side of the law and know how prosecutors can potentially try to twist the situation.

I’ve handled an enormous number of murder cases. I will tell you that those are emotionally draining for everyone involved. But a death-of-a-dog case is even more so. I’ve seen people become quite distraught.

The aggravated cruelty to animals statute in Pennsylvania makes it a crime to torture an animal. That’s pretty straightforward. The statute also makes it a crime to intentionally, knowingly or recklessly engage in a course of conduct that is going to result in the death or serious bodily injury of an animal.

So, you can see how that might get twisted, or try to get twisted under certain circumstances, by some prosecutor … because maybe the owner of the dog is politically connected or is particularly vocal. We see that sometimes.

You need to be aware of those types of things. Most importantly, the bottom line is that if a dog is attacking you, another person, or your domestic animal, then you can use lethal, deadly force.

If you have any questions, please call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to an Independent Program Attorney.

Can I be Arrested for Shooting an Attacking Dog in Georgia?

Do I have to let a dog bite me before using deadly force to protect myself? When can I shoot an attacking animal, and what crimes could I be charged with? Now, the most basic question, perhaps the most important that we have to answer with this topic, is can I legally use deadly force against an attacking animal?

Yes, you absolutely can. When it comes to the laws of the use of force and even deadly force to defend yourself, someone else, or property against an attacking animal in Georgia, the statutes are a mixture of different laws and they’re not contained in just one section of statutes. Recall that there is no general defense against animal statute in Georgia. We’re dealing with several different avenues where potentially you could be justified.

To begin with, the standard laws of justification would prevail. In other words, if you believe that you must act to prevent death or great bodily injury, then you would be justified potentially in the amount of force that you used against a potential animal attack.

Georgia has no dedicated self-defense or defense of others statute that deals with all animals. But statutes do exist that justify acts against animals in general, and more specifically, statutes that grant freedom from liability for acts committed against animals involved in specific conduct.

Now, you may be legally justified in using force or deadly force, as in firing a weapon, against an attacking animal if you reasonably believe that such act is necessary to defend against an imminent threat of injury or damage to any person, or animal, or property.

While the general theory of justification under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated 16-3-21 would apply to a defense of animal attack, the cruelty to animal statute or that subsection would discharge an individual of any criminal responsibility for the death of an animal after he or she shot that animal so long as that person felt it necessary to protect himself or herself from an imminent threat of injury.

Now, the code section also says this: a person who humanely injures or kills an animal under the circumstances indicated in this subsection shall incur no civil liability or criminal responsibility for such injury or death. That is the Official Code of Georgia Annotated 16-12-4(h)(3).

The law on permitted action appears to become broader when it pertains just specifically to dogs. While the justification provisions of the cruelty to animals statute that we just went through absolve an individual from criminal responsibility for the death of an animal when necessary against an imminent threat, the cruelty to dog statute arguably lowers the threshold for freedom from liability for killing a dog, only requiring a showing that an individual has defended his or her person or property from injury or damage. We’re talking about the Official Code of Georgia Annotated 4-8-5. This is the cruelty to dogs statute. Again, it arguably lowers the level of danger in order to respond, only requiring a showing that an individual has defended his or her property or person from injury or damage caused by a dog.

This is the language of that statute. No person shall perform a cruel act on any dog, nor shall any person harm, maim, or kill any dog or attempt to do so, except that a person may defend his or her person or property or the person or property of another from injury or damage being caused by a dog or kill any dog causing injury or damage to any livestock, poultry, or pet animal.

Can we protect ourselves from an animal attack? Yes. Under the general theory of justification, you can do so. Under the cruelty to animals statute, you can do so. And, under the cruelty to dogs statute, you can do so. General theories of justification when death or great bodily injury is perceived under the cruelty to animals statute when there is an imminent threat to person or property and under the cruelty to dogs statute when person or property may be potentially damaged, then you can protect yourself under any of those theories by the use of force or even deadly force. If you do so, your actions must be as humane as is possible under those circumstances, but you can protect yourself.

Now, if you are charged, you can be charged with cruelty to animals. You can be charged with cruelty to dogs. But under those specific statutes, there are subsections that grant you civil and criminal immunity if you act according to the law.