At least as much as it can be known.
John Farnam once quipped that if he was read his rights and then asked if he understood them, his reply would be:
The Supreme Court hasn’t yet decided what my rights are; how am I supposed to understand them!
That being said, the level of willful ignorance many people are comfortable with regarding the guns they own is disturbing. Would any of us consider driving a car without having at least some cursory knowledge of the Rules of the Road? I certainly hope not.
Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to another of John’s quips:
You’re innocent until indigent.
Legal problems tend to be very expensive, even when ultimately resolved in the gunowner’s favor. The instructor of the Nevada Concealed Handgun Class I took had an interesting take on it. If you shoot someone, or even threaten them with a weapon, and then get arrested, you’re probably going to want to get bonded out as quickly as possible. Unless you have a large amount of cash, say $50K-100K, readily available, you’re going to require the services of a bail bondsman. The bondsman will typically charge 10-15 percent of the bond set by the judge as the bond fee. You don’t get that back, ever. It’s just $15,000 you threw into the financial incinerator of the legal system. It might be a good idea to figure how to avoid that ahead of time.
Firearm and self-defense laws tend to be arcane and frequently illogical. For certain, they vary widely from place to place, even city to city. For instance, a New York State License to Carry is no good in New York City, nor is any other Weapons Carry License. And yet, people periodically volunteer to the police at the entrance of the Statue of Liberty that they are carrying a gun because they have a License from somewhere else. The officer’s response is always the same: “Let me have it and put your hands behind your back. You’re under arrest.”
Usually, after three years of legal wrangling and a lot of burned up cash, the charges will be dropped down to something where the person doesn’t become a felon and doesn’t have to serve time. But you never get the gun back. A little research would have prevented that problem.
Handgunlaw.us is a wonderful online resource to start your research. As Steve and Gary, the curators, say though, verify independently what you find there. If you find value in it, donations are appreciated. I don’t get any cut of that, I just recognize that maintaining such a website is a big and expensive job.
Stay out of as much trouble as you can. Negative Outcomes are definitely possible with firearms. Five of the Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make relate to legal issues. And they’re usually avoidable.