I recently had dinner with a friend of mine who works for the USPS. We were chatting a bit and at one point he said he had a story that would interest me. He spoke of a new bunch of Postal Service drivers that were attending an orientation in Denver, where I live. Apparently, there was a large ruckus in the group over a rule that the post office has, stating that guns are not allowed in automobiles on post office property.
The group of people, which held many licensed concealed carriers, exclaimed about how they have the same rights in their car as they do in their home, as the car was an extension of it. The post office plainly replied that this was not the case, and the two parties reached an impasse. The post office would not budge on this, and those that were claiming that their car shared the same freedoms as their home, would not accept that this was the way.
Does the Law Have an Answer?
The question is, who was right in this scenario? There are many people out there in the blogosphere, on YouTube, and even teaching firearms classes who tout that a car is an extension of the home citing specific state laws and statutes.
Now, while it is true that in some states you can carry openly or concealed in your car, as well as your home, there is no law anywhere in the country that specifically states that anything you can do in your home you can also do in your car. Anybody that has said that the same rights apply is not giving you the truth. While you have certain rights you can have in your home, they do not always apply to your cars. You may defend yourself from intruders invading your home, but without imminent danger, the idea of defending yourself from someone just entering your car is a much stickier situation.
Personal vs. Private Property:
And why is that? Many people view cars, as they do their home, as their property. While this is true, a car is property in the same way that an RC Car is property. Just because you have an item that you can fit inside and inhabit, does not mean that it counts as a homestead. Personal property and private property are two very different things. A recent Supreme Court ruling altered the laws that allow a police officer to search a car after a traffic stop. The Court ruled that a search of the passenger compartment of a car is allowed if either:
- The driver/arrestee is within reaching distance of the passenger compartment at the time of the search, or
- It is reasonable to believe the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest (meaning the police cannot search your car for weapons unless they arrested you for a violent crime or illegal weapon possession).
The latter is similar to the rules for a house and search warrants, but the former is something that is not at all similar to a house and proves that the two are very different. The police cannot come into your home if you are within arms reach of a gun cabinet.
Dwelling, Premise, Habitation:
These are three well-known words to those who take a good look at the gun laws in this country, and self-defense laws on top of that. There are pages upon pages of legal documents speaking of just what constitutes a dwelling, premises, or habitation, and depending on the state that you live in, these words could drastically affect your ability to carry. However, they are all synonyms for private property where you reside. Many states have laws we often refer to as “Castle Doctrine” or “Make My Day” Laws that allow you to defend your home but those laws use words like dwelling, occupation, or habitation. Depending on the state and the case law your hotel room, campsite, RV, or friends house may all qualify… but your car won't.
Cars, on the other hand, will not have these words next to them in any legal text because the law sees them as personal property.
Think about it like this. If you are driving down the road and you pull your car onto someone else’s property and just stay there, would you be charged with trespassing? Of course. You do not take your private property status with you when you leave your home with something that you store there. This is the way that the federal government sees it.
I know that there may be some further questions about this. We encourage that dialogue. USA Firearm Training is dedicated to the training and education of the American Gun Owner. That’s why we prepared an online course called “American Gun Law”. This is a course that offers 8 hours of time with criminal defense attorney Doug Richards. Where he and ConcealedCarry.com President Jacob Paulsen sit down and go over dozens of questions. The idea of the “car being an extension of the home” is one of many myths and confusing points of law that are clarified in American Gun Law. Here is a sample from the course about this topic:
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Until next time, stay safe out there.