Senator Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) introduced a bill to the Senate on March 14 that would institute new protections for gun owners who travel across state lines with their firearms.
The Lawful Interstate Transportation of Firearms Act, also introduced by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R., Va.) to the House of Representatives in January, would expand and clarify the interstate firearm transportation rules instituted under the Firearms Owners' Protection Act of 1986. Under that law, Americans are allowed to transport firearms from one state where they can legally possess them to another so long as certain requirements are met, such as the firearms being unloaded and locked in a container not easily accessible to passengers.
The new bill would expand those protections to include stops along the interstate trip and even overnight stays. It would also require that the state pay attorneys' fees for individuals who successfully defend themselves in court under the bill. It would further allow those who are illegally detained for transporting firearms in accordance with the law to sue the jurisdiction that detained them for damages.
Gun rights advocates have complained about abuses of the Firearms Owners' Protection Act for years. In one often-cited case, Utah resident Greg Revell was thrown in jail for 10 days in 2005 after his flight was delayed causing him to miss his connecting flight and become stranded in New Jersey with his unloaded firearm. Though the charges against him were eventually dropped, police did not return his firearm until 2008. Revell took his case to the highest court, but the Supreme Court declined to hear his argument.
Hatch said the bill is intended to protect the gun rights of those who've been arrested or delayed while traveling between states with their firearms.
"This bill safeguards our Second Amendment rights by strengthening federal protections for responsible gun owners travelling across state lines," Hatch said in a statement. "By amending the Firearms Owners' Protection Act of 1986, this commonsense proposal puts an end to the harassment of upstanding citizens who happen to stay overnight, fuel up, or stop for an emergency during their travels in another state."
Rep. Griffith said changing the law is necessary to ensure that states don't disregard federal gun rights protections.
"I believe it is important to defend the Second Amendment right of law-abiding gun owners," Griffith said in the same statement. "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."
Gun rights proponents applauded the bill as an effort to push back on rogue jurisdictions that go after law-abiding gun owners from out of state.
"Too many jurisdictions have demonstrated a pattern of persecuting nonresident gun owners passing through their state," Lars Dalseide, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action, told the Washington Free Beacon. "HR 538 will put an end to that persecution and protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners traveling with legally owned firearms."