Sunday, July 16, 2017

Are Guns Legal in Bags Attached to Bikes or Wheelchairs?

Just this week, I’ve seen questions come up about firearms in bags or containers on bikes and wheelchairs, so I thought I’d share my conclusions on the blog. Nevada law defines a concealed firearm as “a loaded or unloaded handgun which is carried in such a manner not to be discernible by ordinary observation,” NRS 202.3653. It is a felony to carry concealed upon your person a firearm, NRS 202.350(1)(d)(3).

Typically, this is understood to mean that you cannot hide a firearm beneath your clothing, unless it is partially exposed far enough to be able to easily identify it as a gun, or to carry a bag such as a purse with a gun in it. Backpacks over the shoulder or a carried container are included as well.

Carry is defined in the dictionary as “to move while supporting,” “to wear or have one’s person,”  or “to bear upon.” “The person” is defined to include the body and clothing. These all seem to imply that a gun attached to or held by a person is considered being carried. A purse is moved from place to place while suspended (supported) by a hand, while a backpack is supported by the straps around the shoulder. Wearing, bearing, or having on one’s person all imply holsters, belting a gun in, pocketing a gun, or somehow having it moved about by the stuff on your body.

The opinion of the attorney general states that: “It is our opinion that the language of NRS 202.350 would be narrowly construed to include only those concealed weapons which are actually on the person or in a container carried by the person.” A bike or wheelchair would be doing the “supporting”; both mechanical items incapable of wearing or bearing guns, (vicarious) contact with the body being required. 
"...the phrases 'concealed upon person,' 'upon his person,' and 'upon the person' have been interpreted to include weapons that are in contact with the individual or are being carried within a container by an individual." 
Let’s not get too technical, so let’s just say that the only way for the gun to move is by going where your body goes, because it’s somehow attached to you, be it by accessory, clothing, strap, or just fingers around a handle. So, if the item is not attached to your body, hanging from it, or being carried, it’s not illegally concealed. Thus, a gun in a pannier or saddlebag on your bike, horse, or motorcycle is not on your body and is not illegal.

The difference is rather specific to Nevada. Nevada law only requires the firearm to be upon your person to make it criminal. The opinion above comes from a question from the Clark County District Attorney about whether or not a concealed weapon is still illegally concealed if it is merely near a person, such as within arm’s reach. The question was: 
“A weapon carried on the person is obvious. The question gets more complicated with a weapon in a purse, briefcase, carry-on luggage and such when it is in fact carried by an individual. Place those containers on the floor next to the person. Put the same container in the passenger portion of a vehicle, the weapon in the glove box, console, under the seat?” 
Many other states prohibit such behavior that the DA asked about, reasoning that the weapon is still under the immediate control of the person and can be quickly accessed. They do this by specifying “on or about the person” or add similar qualifications. So, in Nevada a firearm in a purse on the seat next to a drive is not illegally concealed, while in Idaho it would be. In these “about” states, it is safe to assume that a saddlebag or backpack hanging from the rear of a wheelchair is “about the person” and is illegal. 
“…language such as 'concealed on or about person' or 'concealed on or about his person' has been interpreted to extend the proximity of the weapon necessary to constitute a violation of the statute... To violate a statute prohibiting carrying firearms 'concealed on or about the person,' the weapon must be actually concealed on the person or in such close proximity that it can be readily used as though on the person, without appreciable change in his position.” 
So, due to the unique wording of Nevada law, it is not illegal to have a gun in a bag or container on your wheelchair or bike (or motorcycle or Segway, for that matter). It’s not an oversight, it just makes life a little simpler for citizens who want to be able to defend themselves without paying for the privilege to exercise their right to put a handgun case on the floor of their car or tuck their revolver into their glovebox. Gangbangers on bikes don’t use panniers and people in wheelchairs typically don’t go around committing murders and robberies, so I think we’re just fine with the way our law is.

Caution: Police are not experts on the law and often do not have the same, detailed grasp of minutia that the average armed citizen does. They may not understand the difference, but it is highly likely any prosecuting attorney or judge would, so you’re probably on safe legal ground. However, I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice, rather informed opinion. Don’t start screaming “The dude from Nevada Carry said it was okay!” if you meet one of Nevada’s crummiest.

It’s always best to politely explain the law and tell the officer where he can quickly find an answer (the other half of the reason for Nevada Carry’s raison d'ĂȘtre). Remember, the goal is to beat the ride and beat the rap. Getting a CCW is worth it for any eventualities and to avoid the $25 background check fee.

-GC


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