I would like to take a moment to briefly discuss online legal advice, especially in connection with to firearms-related laws.
Why you generally shouldn’t take online legal advice
Just about anyone can create a respectable-looking website, or post a comment on an existing website. However the ability to do so doesn’t go hand in hand with legal knowledge, and the legal information contained on websites is often flat out wrong. As far as online legal advice goes, here are just a couple examples of the grossly inaccurate information about firearms laws I’ve read online recently:
“In Iowa you can shoot anyone who comes on your property without permission with a shotgun loaded with rock salt. [You] don’t have to warn them first and can shoot as soon as they set foot on your land because it your property and rock salt won’t kill them.”
“A convicted felon can not even posse ammo let alone a gun. Here is the exception to that law though. On the federal side for it to take effect the gun or ammo has to have crossed state lines at one time. So if there is a gun maker in the state then you could buy a weapon from them and load your own ammo and be totally legal on the federal aspect of it.”
To reiterate, neither of the above quoted statements is true. A person who follows either piece of (bad) advice may find themselves spending many years in prison – and the fact that they honestly believed the incorrect legal advice will not save them.
To be fair, I do understand the temptation to take online legal advice: Often times those seeking out legal advice don’t have the money to hire an attorney, but do have a desperate need to have their legal question answered. So they search online, hoping that the internet can serve as a substitute for an attorney. Then, when they find a web page that gives them the answer they were hoping for, they take the answer they wanted and run with it, often to their detriment. Indeed, the most dangerous sources of online legal advice are non-lawyers who know just enough law to sound impressive to other non-lawyers, but don’t grasp the law well enough to give competent legal advice. I would urge everyone to refrain from turning to the internet for legal advice.
Giving good legal advice requires understanding the law, rather than just being able to quote a statue or cite a court case. It requires the ability to apply the unique facts of each situation to the law, and to determine what facts will be outcome determinative. This is no trivial task, which is why becoming a lawyer requires 3 years of study, in addition to a bachelor’s degree. To obtain competent legal advice, a person should contact an attorney who is licensed in their state.
Why I must respectfully decline to give legal advice on this website
As stated in my bio, I am an Attorney at Law, who is licensed in Illinois and Iowa – and as I stated on the disclaimer page, I do not give legal advice on this website or via email. The reasons why I must refrain from giving legal advice on this website are several fold: Firstly, giving competent legal advice can require quite a bit of research. Given the fact that I work full time as a lawyer (and as the owner of the law firm, I supervise the other attorney and non-attorney employees), and have time consuming children and hobbies, I simply don’t have the time to spend doing the legal research that would be needed to give competent legal advice to every visitor who emails me a legal question relating to firearms. Secondly, laws vary by jurisdiction, meaning that what may be lawful in my home state may be unlawful in your home state, and vice versa. That is why lawyers must be licensed in whichever state they practice law. I’m licensed in IL and IA, and it would be a crime for me to try and practice law (via the internet) in other states. In sum, there are many good reasons why nothing on this website constitutes legal advice, and why I must respectfully decline to offer legal advice via email or any other method of communication. Please don’t take my refusal to answer your legal question personally
If I hit the lotto tomorrow and no longer needed to work to earn a living, I would probably dedicate my life to advancing gun rights and other civil rights through the legal system, and to providing free gun-related legal advice to those who need it most. However since I don’t play the lotto, and don’t anticipate becoming independently wealthy anytime soon, I doubt that I will soon be in a position to provide the free gun-related legal advice that I would love to offer.
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