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FOPA and traveling through Puerto Rico or USVI

Discussion in 'Legal' started by CollinLeon, Feb 25, 2012.

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  1. CollinLeon

    CollinLeon member

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    A friend of mine wants me to help him bring back a sailboat from the Tortola (BVI) to Houston. Being a Texan, I don't believe in going anywhere without a firearm if at all possible, so I'm curious if the Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA) would apply if I was flying into Puerto Rico or St Thomas (USVI). My plan is to fly from Houston to either Puerto Rico or St Thomas with the firearm checked in my luggage, meet the boat there, and sail back to the US, never touching any foreign soil (or if we do, to go through the port's procedures for declaring the firearm in the gun locker aboard the boat).

    Anyone have any experience doing something similar to this on US territories?
     
  2. highlander 5

    highlander 5 Member

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    IANAL but aren't PR and St Thomas territories and not states? That would be my biggest concern. This sounds like a sit down with a lawyer that understands Federal firearms law.
    Don't know much about firearms in St Thomas but if caught with a firearm in Puerto Rico could be a very unplaaesent experience if what I read about firearms ownership there is correct.
     
  3. Zoogster

    Zoogster Member

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    FOPA does not cover you.

    FOPA pertains to transporting in a vehicle through states that are not your destination.

    Destination is defined quite broadly, to include even states you are driving through if you stop in them and go off your immediate path necessary to pass through, get gas, or sleep for the night. So just going off your path to visit some places would inactivate FOPA even if carried in accordance with the law. For example visiting Niagra Falls when passing through New York (which does not even allow ownership in a home of an unregistered handgun) on your way to Vermont would cause FOPA to no longer protect you passing through the state because you went off the path necessary to cross straight through the state. Making New York a 'destination' even though you are going to Vermont.


    While I don't think it even applies to territories, I am not sure.
    I do know however that even if it did apply, Puerto Rico would be considered a destination and so you would only be covered if the firearm was legal there. It would not let you bypass Puerto Rico firearm laws even if it was covered the same as a state because it was a destination. FOPA is only in effect if the firearm is legal at both ends of the trip.
    For example FOPA would not allow you to bypass Hawaii laws if you flew into that state which has very restrictive laws, because it is a destination. It would only allow you legal protection traveling through states in between if it was legal at both ends of the trip. Making it generally worthless on an out of the way island state because it will generally be your destination.


    The way FOPA works is that if the firearm is legal at the start and at the destination (or destinations if you stop places in between) allowing you to travel through places in between with a firearm that would violate the laws of the state you are driving through.
    However if the firearm is not legal at the destination, then it is also not covered by FOPA in all the states in between.

    For example if you were to take a road trip to New York state, your handgun would not be covered by FOPA in any state on the way, nor in New York because it is not legal at the destination.
    If you were taking a road trip to say Massachusetts your 'assault weapons' would not be covered by FOPA in any state in between such as New York because they are not legal at the destination.
    Etc

    Furthermore FOPA does not just allow one to possess the firearm. It requires a very specific method of transport that is more restrictive than most state laws, just to trigger FOPA.
    This is unloaded, and in a locked case, in the trunk in vehicles with a trunk.
    While not locked up you are not covered by FOPA.
    So FOPA does not really allow you a means of self-defense while it is protecting you, it merely insures the firearm can be on the trip while going through third party states that may not approve of a firearm even being in their state at all in any condition.

    FOPA is for protecting you in states in between your destinations, allowing you a method of transport even when the state would otherwise not allow you to even possess an unloaded firearm in a locked container.
    It does not protect you at the destination, in between if not legal at the destinations, or shield you from local laws in between unless transported in a way more restrictive than most state laws.
    This means FOPA is generally unnecessary and less freedom than allowed by most state laws, except for when traveling through just a couple states, because most states let you do something less restrictive if you learn the laws of the states you will be passing through.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2012
  4. CollinLeon

    CollinLeon member

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    I am thinking that my departure point is houston and my destination point is galveston. The route that I take to get there should not matter. The fact that I need multiple means of transportation to complete the route should not matter either.
     
  5. andrewstorm

    andrewstorm member

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    A friend of mine,who worked for a Florida senator,told me of his journey around Cuba in darkness,as it was necessary to avoid the Cuban military detection on the way to the virgin islands from key west, later in the journey when stopped by the us coast guard,they were asked"what type firearms they had on board",as every one has firearms on board for self defence on the high seas,they showed the guns to the coast guard,and were advised to return to Florida without going so close to Cuba,as it could be hazardous to their health if the Cubans caught them:eek:
     
  6. Zoogster

    Zoogster Member

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    CollinLeon said:
    That is not how FOPA works.
    That is not what destination has been determined to mean under the legislation.

    FOPA doesn't count within the same state anyways, only in third party states.
    Your starting point and destination cannot be in the same state.


    I told you that even going off the path to visit Niagra Falls when traveling through New York on your way to Vermont (where you can constitutionally carry) would make Niagra Falls a 'destination' under the law even though it was not your destination so to speak in English. Taking the possession from legal at your starting point and your destination to no longer legal at your destination and removing the protections offered by FOPA because New York state then becomes your destination under the law, even if you continue on your way to Vermont after.


    You most certainly don't get to go thousands of miles and then claim your destination was next to your starting point, and in the same state to be protected by FOPA. You don't go in a giant circle from point a to b under FOPA. The fact that you both flew someplace, and then took possession of a vessel there before heading in the opposite direction makes it at least one of your destinations as it applies to FOPA.
    Destination does not mean your round trip destination, or ultimately where you end up in this case, but your next point on your journey. Any deviation from a straight path or line that adds a new point to your journey counts as a destination. The other end of the straight line is also a destination.
    In this case the place you fly into and then leave the airport to begin a new leg of your journey would be your destination, and so anything you bring would not be protected by FOPA at that destination even if it applies to territories. It would have to be imported to Puerto Rico in compliance with the laws of Puerto Rico.



    Puerto Rico would be a destination as it applies to FOPA, and anything you couldn't legally bring and possess in Puerto Rico would not be protected.
    When leaving it would be the starting point of the next leg in the journey.

    Texas is not your starting point and your destination. Even if you were taking it to Louisiana or Florida you wouldn't be protected by FOPA in Puerto Rico even if it was a state, because Texas wouldn't be your starting point, and Louisiana/Florida your destination, with a big giant circle off towards Puerto Rico. Wherever you flew into would be your destination on the way there. And where you were headed back to on a relatively straight path (deviation for wind patterns would be fine, but not visiting new places out of the way or those would become 'destinations') would be your destination on the way back.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2012
  7. wildbilll

    wildbilll Member

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    A better way to determine if FOPA works for you is to ask yourself some test questions, which would certainly be asked of you if you were caught.

    1. Where were you going?
    2. Why were you going there?

    You were going to get a boat. It was located in PR or USVI. Your round robin scenario of TX to TX destination isn't reasonable.
     
  8. CollinLeon

    CollinLeon member

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    If I'm making a road trip around the country through multiple states, FOPA should be valid even if I'm ending up in the same state that I started from.
     
  9. swinokur

    swinokur Member

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    Make sure to take note of the term "legal to possess and carry" in the origin and destination states. If it's not legal in either, FOPA does not protect you. The MD AG has stated if you start in MD and go out of state, FOPA gives you no protection because in MD it is not legal to possess and carry w/o a permit.

    Be careful
     
  10. Zoogster

    Zoogster Member

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    He had it explained in detail what destination means under the law.

    If he wants to simply ignore it to suit himself, he will not be protected.
     
  11. Autolycus

    Autolycus Member

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    Why not consult a lawyer? Or better yet not going. You are going to another nation and this will get tricky since they are not completely sovereign. It would be in your best interest to just forget about carrying.
     
  12. CollinLeon

    CollinLeon member

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    Ask 10 lawyers and you'll get 10 different answers...
     
  13. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

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    Forget FOPA. What's the law in Puerto Rico about possession of firearms? That's what counts, and nobody here so far has had an answer. Go to Google...
     
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