Mea Culpa

Several times on this site I have stated that I, as a legal permanent resident of the US, am not allowed to own guns. I have always thought that is was quite right and proper because, after all, the intent behind the Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms is to provide for defence of the country, and it seems only sensible to protect that right only for citizens.

Well, it seems I might have been wrong.

One of the things I like to do is occasionally look at who is finding my blog and how. Today saw a visitor who found me by the simple tactic of typing "legal alien" into Google. Again, a habit of mine is to perform the same search to see just how far down the list I am.

Trust me, I'm miles down. I got to page 20 before giving up. This visitor must have slugged through a lot to wind up here.

Anyway, one of the pages I noticed was "US State and Federal Gun Laws For Non-Citizens", which contains the following passage:

In general, non-immigrant aliens are forbidden to possess any firearms or ammunition. But there is a big exception for a legal alien who:

...is in possession of a hunting license or permit lawfully issued in the United States

(See Title 18, USC Chapter 44, Section 922, part (y)(2) for details.)

Green-card holders and immigrant aliens who do not yet have their green card are both okay under federal law, although many people (including gun dealers, law enforcement officers, etc.) are not aware of the distinction or the hunting license exception, and erroneously think that either you have a green card, or you can't have guns.

Naah, I thought. The nice people at the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) told me I couldn't own guns, and they'd know, right? Besides, the above isn't too clear. I'm not a "non-immigrant alien" because I'm a permanent resident - I have a "green card".

So.. can I or can't I?

I could have searched Google for hours, turning up several websites that, by virtue of their age, are unreliable as a guide to modern law, or, by virtue of the language, are equally ambiguous.

Okay, I did that for about ten minutes before realising that the horse with the answer had a very obvious mouth.

Cue the nice ladies and gentlemen at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (known as the ATF), who have a very nice website with all the answers.

Under the FAQ section is a list of those prohibited from buying guns:

(1) Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding 1 year;

(2) Is a fugitive from justice;

(3) Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;

(4) Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to a mental institution;

(5) Is an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States or an alien admitted to the United States under a non-immigrant visa;

(6) Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;

(7) Having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced his or her citizenship;

(8) Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner; or

(9) Has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence

(10) Cannot lawfully receive, possess, ship, or transport a firearm.

Notice number 5. If you're here illegally (I'm not) or are only visiting (I'm not), you can't get a gun.


Also, we have, under "what constitutes residency in a State?":

The State of residence is the State in which an individual is present; the individual also must have an intention of making a home in that State. A member of the Armed Forces on active duty is a resident of the State in which his or her permanent duty station is located. If a member of the Armed Forces maintains a home in one State and the member’s permanent duty station is in a nearby State to which he or she commutes each day, then the member has two States of residence and may purchase a firearm in either the State where the duty station is located or the State where the home is maintained. An alien who is legally in the United States is considered to be a resident of a State only if the alien is residing in that State and has resided in that State continuously for a period of at least 90 days prior to the date of sale of the firearm. See also Item 5, “Sales to Aliens in the United States,” in the General Information section of this publication.

The "Item 5" (pdf file) mentioned, states that, in order for an alien to purchase weapons, they must:

1) Be 18 or older;

2) Show government-issued picture ID;

3) Complete a relevant form;

4) Comply with the Brady Law;

5) Be a resident of the State where the purchase is happening for more than 90 days, and be able to prove same;

6) Not be illegal or non-immigrant;

7) Not be disqualified for any other of the reasons listed above.

So.. under Federal law, I can go buy a gun.

But what about Kentucky State law? Does that make a difference?

Er.. Nope.

Kentucky State law only differentiates between legal aliens and citizens, in relation to firearms laws, when it comes to obtaining a license to carry a concealed weapon. Citizens can, aliens can't:

Under current law, legal resident aliens may freely acquire and possess firearms. They may bear them openly. They have the same rights to self-defense as any citizen.

Soo.. Anyone who was thinking of getting me a late Christmas gift..

No comments: