Sen. Steve Daines, Montana Republican, on Tuesday reintroduced legislation to strengthen protections for gun owners legally bringing their firearms across state lines amid concerns about President Biden’s call for stricter gun laws.
The 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act [FOPA] allows for the interstate transportation of ammunition and firearms, provided they are unloaded and out of reach, but critics point out that lawful owners have been detained and even arrested for bringing guns across state lines in certain jurisdictions, notably New York.
“Montanans have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms,” Mr. Daines said in a statement. “I will always defend the 2nd Amendment and work to strengthen protections for law-abiding gun owners, including the right to safely transport firearms. We’ve already seen President Biden threaten the 2nd Amendment and we must act now to protect these rights for all Americans.”
The Daines bill would make it clear that transporting weapons and ammunition encompasses “staying in temporary lodging overnight, stopping for food, fuel, vehicle maintenance, an emergency, medical treatment, and any other activity incidental.”
The legislation also ensures that legal owners “may not be arrested for violations of local laws relating to ‘the possession, transportation, or carrying of firearms’ unless there is probable cause.”
The issue isn’t hypothetical: The National Rifle Association, legal groups and moving companies have for years warned about transporting firearms between states in the Northeast.
“Unfortunately, FOPA’s protections have been found to be weaker in the Northeast,” said the American Moving & Storage Association on its website. “In New York, where gun laws are particularly strict, the State Police don’t always recognize FOPA, and have arrested gun owners traveling through New York even if they were in compliance.”
The NRA issued a “special advisory for New York & New Jersey airports,” warning that “even persons traveling in full compliance with federal law have been arrested or threatened with arrest.”
“FOPA’s protections have been substantially narrowed by court decisions in certain parts of the country, particularly in the Northeast,” said the NRA Institute for Legislative Action. “Persons traveling through New York and New Jersey airports may want to consider shipping their firearms to their final destinations.”
Gun sales surged last year, particularly among first-time buyers, a spike attributed to the novel coronavirus pandemic, widespread protests, and Mr. Biden’s campaign pledge to crack down on firearms.
Mr. Biden called for expanding background checks on gun sales, banning “assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” and eliminating legal immunity for firearms manufacturers on Feb. 14, the third anniversary of the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
“This Administration will not wait for the next mass shooting to heed that call,” Mr. Biden said in a statement. “We will take action to end our epidemic of gun violence and make our schools and communities safer.”
Everytown for Gun Safety cheered his remarks and praised the Biden administration as “the strongest gun safety administration in history.”
During the campaign, Mr. Biden said he met with Parkland student survivors at the White House when he was vice president, even though the shooting occurred in 2018 and he left office in January 2017.
Cosponsors of the Daines bill, which the senator introduced in the previous Congress, include Republican Sens. Mike Crapo of Idaho, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.