Monday, April 09, 2007

When you speak, Baby Jesus cries.

This may come as a bit of a surprise to my Gentle Readers, but I tend to have something of a complex regarding the minimum knowledge base required for certain jobs.

Anyone occupying a job position should demonstrate a base amount of knowledge before being entrusted with that position, and they should endeavour to maintain -- even expand -- that knowledge base.

As a "for instance" let us contemplate peace officers and gun store clerks.

I do not see why we should not expect our peace officers to exhibit some kind of base knowledge regarding the laws of the State in which they are commissioned. In this case, the Great State of Texas.

In the same vein, I do not see why we can not expect gun store clerks to have some kind of familiarity with the gun laws of the State. Again, in this case, The Great State of Texas.

Obviously, I am somewhat mistaken.

I say this, because as I was purchasing the latest addition to my gun safe, a customer to my left asked the clerk who was ringing up his purchase -- a rather nice Tikka bolt-action in .243 -- what Texas laws covered the transport home of his purchase.

To my absolute disbelief the clerk replied -- without missing a beat -- that in Texas a rifle could be in the passenger compartment as long as 1) the rifle was unloaded and; 2) you weren't further than forty miles from your home.

My jaw just about hit the floor. I was in the process of deciding whether I really wanted to jump into this discussion with all four feet, when the clerk looks past me to the fully-uniformed officer to my right and says, "Isn't that right, officer?"

This officer, wearing the uniform of a very large department in North Texas solemnly intoned: "Weapons laws in Texas are very complicated. As long as you unload your rifle, and lock it in the trunk of the car, you'll satisfy all the requirements of Texas Law regarding rifles."

I just about lost it. My vision greyed out, and I heard a ringing in my ears. Somewhere, angels wept bitter tears.

I bit my tongue until the clerk had swiped my debit card, then I announced, apropos of nothing, "Texas laws regulate the length of rifles and provide a very short, very specific list of places where they may not be carried. Texas law makes no mention -- whatsoever -- of the loaded or unloaded condition of the rifle, nor does it mention anything about car trunks or being 40 miles from home."

The officer looked at me and said, very gently, "I've been an officer for 25 years."

Y'all should be proud of me. I just about almost said, "Congratulations. In that quarter-century of service have you discovered that we're supposed to be reading the Penal Code, instead of eating it?"

Instead, I replied -- equally as gently -- "I've been a peace officer for 14, and I teach the Penal Code and CCP."

It was, however, a close thing.

Mu answer brought any further conversation to a close and I took the opportunity to depart the store with my latest acquisition.

Sweet shivering Shiva ... is it too much to ask that people who are supposed to be familiar with the law actually -- you know -- read it?! How the hell is an officer supposed to arrest for the violation of a law when he clearly has no clue what is -- or isn't -- the law.

And for Thor's sake, if you're a gun store clerk and someone asks you about gun laws -- actually know what you're talking about before you open your mouth and show your arse, mm'kay? It's not so difficult to say the words, "To be honest, I don't know" when you're clueless.

Try it. "To be honest, I don't know." See? Simple.

Aaarrrgghhh!

LawDog

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Guess I will jump in first, here.

I've taken to carrying a printed copy of the code in my cars' (plural) glove compartments.

I asked five (5) -- count 'em -- FIVE -- LEOs (all friends) a question one night and started an argument. (2) of them called their sup's who gave them different answers.

In my GFW state, you better know, and be able to SHOW officer friendly, what is legal and what is not.

I know several guys who've been handled rather roughly and had all charges dropped later because some officer didn't know the laws said guy WASN'T breaking when he was arrested.

Dedicated_Dad

Hammer said...

Texas gun laws are not usually enforced correctly either.

In my experience, next to no one can understand the gobblty goop of
legalese in the Texas penal code and the sub articles that correct or cancel out certain provisions.

Honestly I have never met a gun store clerk in 25 years that knew poop from peyote.

Flintlock Tom said...

I hardly expect an average gun store clerk to know much about the guns they're selling, so I really don't expect them to know much about gun laws, but I would expect them to at least be able to tell the customer how to, legally, get their new gun from the store to their home.

Sheesh.

ColtCCO said...

When I'm not busy making or buying firearms, I'm also a gun store clerk.

You will gain so much more respect with 3 right answers and 6 "I dunno, let me go find out"s, than with 9 SWAGs that sounded good, any day of the week.

The more I study, the more I learn, but at no point will I simply start bullshitting people.

I very seldom let bullshit from customers, cops or not, slide. Misinformation is confusing at best, deadly or felony at worst.

ColtCCO

Drew said...

I'm a mere rentacop. One of my supervisors is a Reserve Cop for the local PD. She frequently explains laws to me; I respond by citing the actual laws and explaining to her that there aren't any laws backing her up.
Washington is a liberal state, but we have an okay system of gun laws, given the circumstances. Nothing's banned (beyond what the feds say), you can get a CCP with a little money and a clean rap sheet, and you can transport unloaded weapons (loaded ones, if you have a CCP) with few restrictions. She often tells stories of busting people for having illegal "clips that hold too many bullets," or tells me that people with CCPs shouldn't be able to carry in their cars. I explain that there are no current restrictions on magazine capacities and the CCP allows carry in all but a few places. Her argument is always something about making an arrest.

I sure hope our prosecutors are smarter than our cops. 'Cause the cops apparently make arrests on all sorts of nonexistent laws. I had thought about going into law enforcement, but not around here. I'm afraid reading the RCWs isn't appreciated in LEO circles in Western Washington.

Kiki B. said...

Okay, I'm truly a gun virgin here, but I do read your posts about them with great interest, and to learn. I have shot guns in my lifetime, and even earned the nickname of "Little Annie Oakley" when I was 10, because I shot pretty well. Well, I'm not 10 anymore, but I have considered off and on during my life owning a gun for protection. I am married, and would have to run this by the hubby, but what is good for a newbie gun owner to own? Yes, we would be going to the gun range and DEFINITELY learning how to use it properly. We live in S. Indiana, but I can honeslty say, I can't wait to get back to Florida. :-) Thank you!

P.S. Drew, listen up around the week of 4/22-4/28. I'll be in Seattle, WA for some medical testing that week, and I'll give you a shout out. Take care.

Matt G said...

"In my experience, next to no one can understand the gobblty goop of legalese in the Texas penal code and the sub articles that correct or cancel out certain provisions."

Hammer,
Go to Chapter 46 of the Texas Penal Code. It's not that hard to interpret.

Anonymous said...

Never ask a cop if something is legal or his legal opinion. You'll get 10 different opinions from 10 different officers and they'll argue for half a shift with each other about who is right. Ask an attorney and have him look up the actual laws and code sections.

Also a shockingly large number of cops I've found are astoundingly ignorant about the firearms they carry. I can't tell you how any times I've heard police officers tell me that “ those cop killer hollow point bullets will rip right through my bullet proof vest”. I shoot and have shot on ranges that get use by LE personnel and sometimes I'm shocked by their marksmanship. In one town where I used to live there was one copchick who I have no idea how she even qualified. She appeared to close her eyes before she pulled the trigger and she was genuinely frightened of her weapon. She held the thing like it was an icky bug or something. Some of her male counterparts weren't much better. One guy who I went to school with could dump an entire magazine down range in a few seconds yet somehow miss most of target he was aiming at. He's currently lobbying for a new SWAT team as I understand. Guess he wants an MP-5 or a M-16 instead of a pistol.

AlanDP said...

I once got pulled over by an officer in China Grove because he thought my ham radio callsign license plates were some kind of fake I had made up myself.

He didn't enjoy my having to explain to him what amateur radio is, and how you can get license plates with your callsign. I didn't enjoy it much, either.

Porta's Cat said...

Sad thing, is that "we" have all fallen victim to that from time to time.

I always counted myself the human bullshit detector, and for years I was under the assumption that you could not CHL into a bank in Texas. I have zero idea where I picked that up, but it was not in the Statutes.

My knowledge of the other aspects of CHL were, as I then tested them, up to snuff. But I cannot deny I passed the "no banks" chestnut around for more than a few years when it was up in conversation.

At least the clerk, assuming he is teachable, will not pass the bad info around any longer.

Glenmore said...

Most likely, no matter what you do, you are breaking some kind of law. Heck, it's illegal to obey the law at times.
With guns you have federal, state, county and local laws and ordinances, and they change frequently. And of course, the judicial interpretations change as well. The policeman and the clerk may well have overstated the legal restrictions for their location, but I personally wouldn't bet my freedom on it. If I am just transporting, and not wanting to be able to use en route, it goes in the locked case and/or in the trunk. That said, if I KNOW the law, have a CCP etc., or am going somewhere I would rather take my chances with the law than with the local residents, then no locks, no trunks, no disabled action, no empty mags - or even empty chambers.

shooter said...

When I worked at the range, I was asked that question quite a bit. Just for clarification, the first few times, I asked the resident CHL instructor what the laws were for transporting. After that, I knew the answer.

BTW, I don't think anyone asked it, but what (specifically) did you add to your gun vault, Dawg?

The Raving Prophet said...

Any FFL holder, be they a lowly C&R FFL like myself or a full fledged dealer, receives books from the ATF filled with the firearms laws of our great nation. One book for the federal laws, one for all 50 states.

Is there any reason why they can't be accessible for the clerks in a gun store to flip through if they aren't sure? I have much more respect for somebody who says "hold on a sec, let me check" than somebody who spins a stupid line of BS.

In any state in the nation, so long as the firearm itself is legal, unloaded and locked in the trunk is legal for any distance. In most states, it doesn't even have to be in the trunk, and in some (like my native MO), it can be loaded and right at hand.

Tennessee Budd said...

Saturday, I was at a yard sale looking at some weapons, & the seller (who'd already ID'ed himself as a retired LEO) said," I have some pistols, but I didn't bring 'em, 'cause civilians can't sell 'em to each other in TN."
I managed to keep my blood pressure under control, but barely: in TN, no paperwork is even required to transfer firearms between owners, at least according to the Dept. of Safety, which handles such things.

Anonymous said...

My standard speech to the new guys:

"Do not let me catch you spinning BS to the customers. If you do not know, and by 'know', I mean be able to prove by empirical evidence, the answer to a question, answer by saying, 'I'm not sure; let me go ask someone.' If I ever read a story on some internet gun forum about you telling outrageous lies to a customer, I will personally shoot you right in the kneecap."

T.

Rorschach said...

Sadly, not all prosecutors are much better. Here in Houston, our DA Chuck Rosenthal seems to have a bug up his arse about people "traveling" with a weapon in their vehicle, even though the legislature clarified the traveling statute to say that unless you are breaking a law other than a class C misdemeanor (I.E. a traffic violation), not a member of a gang, etc. you are presumed to be traveling for purposes of the statute. it does not matter if you are just going to the grocery store. You no longer have to be crossing county lines or over 50 miles from home etc. all that case law defining "traveling" went out the window.

http://redinktexas.blogspot.com/2007/04/mr-rosenthal-what-part-of-no-do-you-not.html

Rorschach said...

Here is the text of the bill on traveling in Texas:

http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/79R/billtext/pdf/HB00823F.pdf

Zundfolge said...

Cops that don't know the law and try to enforce laws that don't exist are committing a crime.

http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=browse_usc&docid=Cite:+18USC242

For their own safety they need to learn the law.

Zundfolge said...

hmm ... that long URL may not work.

Its a link to the text of Title 18, Part I, Chapter 13, Sec. 242. Deprivation of rights under color of law

Kristopher said...

Most men have trouble saying the words "I don't know."

You might want to ask a woman to try to get a man to say "I don't know." by asking men impossible to answer questions. She will get all manner of evasions and made up crap ... but she won't ever hear those words.

Anonymous said...

Most women (especially those under 30 or otherwise feminists) are now just as bad as men for not being able to say "I don't know".

Idiots are idiots, regardless of sex.

Kiki B. said...

"If I ever read a story on some internet gun forum about you telling outrageous lies to a customer, I will personally shoot you right in the kneecap."

Lol, T. I think I'll come work for you, and test this out. ;-)

P.S. I don't have any kneecaps anymore. :-)

Jason said...

I live in San Francisco, where no one gets a CCW. I researched the state & local knife laws, then called up the police dept (non-emergency #) to make sure I got everything right. I ended up calling 5 different police stations, talking to 7 different officers, and every one gave me a different story, none of which was right. I now carry a copy of the penal codes in my wallet.

Matt G said...

Kiki B., I know just where you can find "T.", though I think she posted that way for plausible deniability.

Heh.

Go to Knoxville...

rwc said...

I think those are probably the hardest words for most folks to say.

Kiki B. said...

Lol, Matt. Thanks for the info. I do hope I get to keep what's left of my knees. ;-)

Max Drive said...

Hi LD,
This is a really clumsy way to share goodies with you. How about some kind of a contact link on your blog?

I worked for one Chief of Police who broke the nose of a handcuffed suspect while he was locked in the back seat of my cruiser. I worked for another who was caught by a neighboring town "badging" hookers for favors.

I just saw this article. Where were these guys when I was working?



Sheriff gives himself a ticket

Tue Apr 10, 12:16 PM ET

Brown County Sheriff Dennis Kocken didn't have to write himself a ticket. But he says it was the right thing to do.

"As sheriff, I'm held to the highest standard in law enforcement. How can I hold officers accountable if I don't hold myself accountable?" he said. "I'm satisfied I'm doing the right thing."

Kocken issued himself a ticket March 27 for an unsafe lane change, three weeks after he had rear-ended a suspected speeder after that driver slowed to turn. Neither the deputy who completed the accident report nor the Brown County district attorney's office felt that Kocken deserved a citation.

"But it kept bothering me," said Kocken. "Finally I decided to write myself a ticket. I felt it was the right thing to do."

The ticket carries a $160.80 fine that Kocken said he fully intends to pay.

The 52-year-old sheriff told investigators he was trailing a vehicle to determine its speed when he had to swerve to avoid a snowblower wheel in his lane. He moved into the other driver's lane and hit the car when the driver slowed.

The ticket marks the second citation in seven months that a state law enforcement officer assessed to himself. In September, Chief Dick Knoebel of the Kewaskum police department wrote himself a $235 ticket for passing a stopped school bus.

___

Information from: Green Bay Press-Gazette, http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com

Anonymous said...

Although, it isn't related to gun laws, while working for the Denton County DA's Family Violence office one summer, I went around with the prosecutors as they gave information sessions to various small departments.

The number of officers who believed there was a legal principle of "mutual combat" enshrined somewhere in Texas law, was scary.

It seemed like Law Enforcement Through Oral Tradition to me.

Anonymous said...

Hubby is a cop and runs into uninformed officers everyday in West Texas. He carries copies of certain sections of the penal code for just such emergencies. More than one 'veteran' officer has had to shut up when confronted with the printed word.

Anonymous said...

Law Dog,
This problem is not exclusive to either of the professions you mention. I have been an Engineer for 15 years (still way short of my fathers 39) and I have noticed the same issue. The company I work for hires young bright engineers right out of college and within a short time frame places them in charge of challenging projects with oversight from senior engineers. When making my rounds I tend to ask technical questions to see if the engineers fully grasp the scope of the project and feel out the progress they are making. EVERY SINGLE ONE of them has at one time or another made up a cow chip answer when they didn’t have a clue. My stock answer now when they try this is “A simple I Don’t Know but I will find out would suffice.”

D Aceman

P.S. Love the blog

Deoxy said...

"Sheriff gives himself a ticket"

I need to move to Brown County. An officer who dosn't consider himself "above the law" is a mighty fine thing.

spirit said...

noticed you said "for THORS sake" way to go!!! am an asatru from australia, came across your blog and love it

spirit