Owning, storing, or carrying a firearm can be so complex and contradictory that often times, gun owners unintentionally violate laws that carry harsh implications.
Take for instance the recent New Jersey Magazine capacity law that turned thousands of New Jerseyans into felons overnight. State and federal laws are also often at odds and these cases are never truly decided, ending up in legal purgatory.
And whether you travel across the country by land or air, standby for ultra-confusing reciprocity agreements, and a patchwork of local and state gun laws. All of this madness has turned otherwise law-abiding citizens into felons. Shaneen Allen's story is probably the most known and underscores the issue.
Gun owners who live in apartments are particularly vulnerable to leases that may not only strip them of their civil right to own a firearm for self-defense, but leave them with no place to live.
Imagine finding the perfect apartment in the neighborhood where you want your child to go to school, or is the most convenient for you to catch the bus to work, only to learn that you are not allowed to live there based on the fact that you are a legal gun owner.
You haven't committed a crime, have impeccable references and credit, store and use your guns responsibly, but are denied on the grounds that the presence of your legally owned gun would interfere with other renters' peaceful enjoyment of their apartment.
Seems like something that would be prohibited federally under the 1968 Fair Housing Act which created a protected class, making it illegal to refuse to house on the basis of characteristics like religion, race, or national origin. Well, it doesn't.
Legislators have not been able to pass a law that would include gun owners as a protected class at the state or federal level.
Okay, but what about District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 US 570 (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago, 561 US 742 (2010)? Didn't these cases affirm that gun ownership and the right to own a gun inside the home for protection is a civil right protected by our Constitution?
Yes, but McDonald v. Chicago put restrictions on the state or federal government, not private property owners.
So that has put the authority in the state legislator's hands. And from that, we end up with laws that cover the spectrum from prohibiting discrimination of legal gun owners, to giving property owners the express right to prohibit legal gun owners from housing.
States in the middle, that have basically not addressed the issue with written law, have created an atmosphere where anything goes.
It is in these voids, that lawsuits and appeals become the authority. Often switching back and forth until funds and time are depleted, the will to fight is gone, or it reaches the highest court in the land.
Let me give you an example of how this plays out in the real world. Just last year a Harvard Grad Student called Leyla Pirnie was told she had to vacate the home she rented with other Grad Students because her keeping a gun(s) in the house made them uncomfortable and was “anxiety-inducing.”
According to Pirnie, she purchased a handgun and was trained because of a domestic incident that had recently occurred.
Pirnie did not announce the fact that she owned any guns when she signed a rental agreement that did not expressly prohibit gun ownership. Nor did she let her roommates know about her guns.
According to Pirnie, and later confirmed by MA Police, she kept her firearms locked up in accordance with MA law.
It is important to note that while Massachusetts has some of the strictest gun laws, including mandatory storage laws, there is no law that addresses landlord/tenant issues related to guns.
According to Pirnie, without permission and while she was away, her roommates searched her room to confirm their hunch that she owned a firearm.
Pirnie said she asked why they had searched her room and one of them said: “We saw that you had a MAGA hat and, come on, you're from Alabama … so we just kind of assumed that you had something.”
The roommates notified the manager who instructed Pirnie she had to move. Various reasons were presented by the management company, but ultimately Pirnie was told by the company she had to leave the home.
In February, Pirnie was still living in the apartment even while the management company said if the other tenants moved out she would be responsible to pay for their rent as well.
So the point is, know the landlord/tenant rights laws relating to firearms in your state. Even if your lease does not expressly prohibit firearm ownership, and even if later down the road through litigation, that is found to be a violation of your civil rights, you could still face much heartache and financial problems.
And before you think I am going to leave you hanging like that, make sure you check out our Renter's Guide to Gun Ownership. It is an extensive compilation for any gun owner who rents and wants to legally protect themselves and their family.