MILLER: Drive across America, armed

Congress should force anti-gun governments to obey federal transport laws

Americans choose to take to the roads for vacations and to visit friends and family on Memorial Day. Often, they’ll bring their firearms with them for sport or personal protection, and it’s perfectly legal under federal law. This gets under the skin of a handful of anti-gun jurisdictions that have grown so out of control that they’ll jail an active-duty Afghanistan veteran who’s following the letter of the law. A growing, bipartisan movement in Congress is looking to stop the harassment.

Rep. H. Morgan Griffith, Virginia Republican, has sponsored legislation that would amend current law to make it clear that individuals who transport their guns from state to state may stop for food, gas and vehicle maintenance. They also may seek medical treatment, tend to an emergency, stay overnight and conduct other activities incidental to the transport.

These things are legal already, but because the law does not spell it out in explicit detail, gun-grabbing areas take advantage of the ambiguity. Mr. Griffith’s language would force states and localities to pay the attorney bills for anyone who is arrested for illegal transport if they are exonerated based on this proposed law.

“The beauty of this is that the fear of having to pay the legal fees will make sure they bring charges that are valid and founded,” said Mr. Griffith, a former defense attorney, in an interview with The Washington Times. “It only has to happen one time, and every risk-assessment manager in the United States of America is going to inform their police that you better make sure he’s violated the law before you arrest him for having a locked gun in a case in the trunk, because that’s going to cost them a lot of money.”

Mr. Griffith is referring to the case of Army 1st Lt. Augustine Kim, who was arrested in the District of Columbia two years ago while transporting his guns from his parents’ home in New Jersey to his home in South Carolina. The firearms were cased and properly stowed in the trunk of his car under his duffle bag, clothes, books and other belongings.

The Metropolitan Police Department claimed the soldier’s stop at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for a medical appointment meant he was no longer transporting and instead was bearing arms in the District, which does not recognize the Second Amendment. Originally booked on four felonies, Lt. Kim accepted one misdemeanor count of possessing an unregistered firearm as part of a plea deal. That charge was dropped nine months later.

Lt. Kim’s attorney, Richard Gardiner, recommended that his client accept the prosecutor’s offer because it meant avoiding the risk of a felony on his record that would end his military career. “I have no doubt in my mind that it was legal transport under both D.C. law and the federal law,” said the longtime firearms attorney.

“If the cops had known what the law was - and they probably relied on information on the firearm registration bureau website, which we know is not correct - they probably wouldn’t have even charged him with the violation.” After three years, D.C. police finally corrected the information earlier this month.

Mr. Griffith’s bill now has 37 co-sponsors - including four Democrats - but the House Judiciary Committee has no plans to hold a hearing on the legislation. That needs to change. Congress has a duty to help gun owners exercise their Second Amendment right to travel across this great nation without fear of being thrown in jail. More importantly, we need to show respect to veterans like Lt. Kim by ensuring others are not put through the same ordeal he suffered.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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