Loaded weapon encounter with the law


New member
A bad experience.

My son was stopped by a Park Ranger on the Natchez Trace Parkway the other night (shortly after midnight) for having both of his tag light bulbs out. It only got worse from there. The officer stated the reason for stopping my son (no tag lights - tag not easily visible, hence a violation - since when did vehicle inspection compliance become an issue?), and in the same breath, he asked if he had any weapons. My son, being truthful and honest, answered that he did, and the two officers went "ape", yelling at him to put his hands on the steering wheel, keep them so he could see them. My son had a shotgun in a case behind the seat (unloaded, ammunition stored in a separate compartment) of his truck and a .40 caliber pistol under the seat in a case with no shell in the chamber, but with a loaded clip inserted. The officers assumed my son was carrying, but during a pat-down, he finally convinced them that the gun was in his truck. They retrieved it and discovered the loaded clip, and tried to accuse my son of lying to them when they asked him if it was loaded. "Loaded" to me means one in the chamber, and he answered to the best of his knowledge that it was not. They disagreed (and were jerks about it), gave him a citation, and now he owes the U. S. Treasury $125 for having a loaded weapon on the Natchez Trace Parkway. Since he is a college student, has a clean record (until now) and no money, guess who has to pay the fine. My son also endured 20 minutes of a complete vehicle search while standing in the cold with his bare hands on the tailgate of his truck while his personal belongings were searched and his privacy violated, all because of being stopped for having no tag lights.

More knowledgeable people, I need your input. I have read here in this forum that it is sometimes routine for an officer to ask if someone they stopped has a weapon, but is it legal for them to ask that question while stopping a person for something else entirely? What should have my son said? If he had said "no", he would have gotten a ticket for no tag lights. Any reason to search the vehicle would have revealed the two firearms, and there would really have been a lot of trouble. Since he said yes, they searched his truck, asked if he had been drinking or doing drugs, ran his license, got smart with him on several occasions, and in general, acted like jerks. Mississippi has one set of gun laws, but the Natchez Trace Parkway has a different set. Around here, some low-life rednecks like to ride the roads at night spotlighting deer, and since there is no hunting within the Natchez Trace boundaries, no loaded deer rifles are permitted for obvious reasons. Good law, but it also extends to personal protection firearms, which defeats the purpose of self defense.

In my opinion, they should not have asked him if he had any weapons. It is none of their business, and they should have only acted only on the reason they stopped him. Am I wrong in thinking that? I have lost a lot of respect for the Park Ranger. Any policeman doing his job is taking a risk, but they don't have to be jerks about it. Why take an armed law-abiding civilian and treat him like a law-breaker instead of and asset who is exercising his Second Amendment rights? I shudder to think what may have happened if my son had sneezed and the smart-aleck SWAT guy hiding off the back rear corner of his truck would have done. He was being treated like a criminal, and I am upset with what all happened.

I am venting a little, but I would like some input from you guys.


Not sure about federal parks specifically, but asking if someone has any weapons is pretty standard for all LEO stops. They ask that if you get stopped for speeding. You'll have to see what the federal rules on carrying weapons are, but the shotgun was probably fine. The pistol might be in question. Was it just under the seat, or was it in a zippered or snap case of some kind?

I do know that in FL, Jeb signed a bill before he left that allows concealed carry of weapons in state parks. Hopefully other states will adopt similar measures.
I'd fight it!

My opinion is since he has a clean record and he was truthful and honest to them I would request a trial. I would go out and find a good 2A lawyer and fight this. All you need is an illegal weapons charge on your record and you're screwed. A good 2A lawyer should be able to show that he was not intending to break the law and that the law created the problem. Legal up to a point on the road then illegal . Do they provide a place to pull over to secure a weapon that is about to become illegal? I know it's not required but signs should be put up stating that people are entering an area that all handguns must be stored in a locked case and ammo be in a separate place. I'd contend that areas like this are areas not unlike a city speed trap without speed limit signs.
Technically, he may be a criminal in the sense that he was carrying a "loaded" weapon in his vehicle. Semantics aside, in TN, those without a TN 2A "permission slip" must keep ammo and weapon separately, and both out of reach. If he's permitted, the stop sounds like it went overboard. I'll try some looking about driving the Natchez Trace. I'm not sure what the firearms regulations are on the road. Good luck to him. I'd also agree that this one might be worth fightin.g
I just made a phone call to the Natchez Trace Park headquarters, and the only response the guy gave me was that the roadway "is Federal property." I pressed a little more, explaining no intention to visit the park, just drive the highway, and I got the same Federal property response. He might be up the proverbial creek, regardless if he's permitted or not. GOOD LUCK.
They of course can ask the question...they can ask just about anything for that matter. What his answer should have been is a tough one...I don't think I can advocate directly lying to a LEO, but you are probably right that if he'd said no and none were obvisouly visable it wouldn't have been an issue.

Also as has been said...the Trace is federal property so some laws could supercede TN laws however there is no blanket TN or Federal law that prohibits carry on federal property despite what the guy that PascalFleischman spoke to was probably trying to imply.

I also agree that he should fight it instead of just paying the ticket, go to court explain to the judge the situation....nothing to loose really.
more information

Thanks, guys. You are being a big help. Here is some more information:


Mississippi Highway Patrol - Frequently Asked Questions

How can I transport my handgun thru Mississippi while on vacation or just passing thru?

Mississippi Law Sec. 97-37-1 (2) states "It shall not be a violation of this section for any person over the age of eighteen (18) to carry a firearm or deadly weapon concealed in whole or in part within the confines of his own home or his place of business, or any real property associated with his home or business or within any motor vehicle".

If you will be traveling on the Natchez Trace Federal Parkway, please contact them directly at (662)842-1572 for their rules & regulation on transporting your firearm.
Looking up the Natchez Trace Parkway firearms rules Googled from several different websites, they say:
"Hunting and the use of firearms are prohibited."
"fireworks and firearms are prohibited."
"Hunting and the possession of loaded firearms are prohibited."

A search of the http://www.nps.gov/natr/ website for "firearms" did not return any rules. A telephone call may be the only way to obtain information.
Here is a response I got from a questions I posted from a Trace website.

My Question:

Can a person with a valid handgun permit from TN, MS, AL or any state
transport a loaded handgun in their vehicle as long as the weapon never
leaves the vehicle?

Thank you for any information.
Their response:

Under the Code of Federal Regulations (Title 36), an individual may
transport a weapon in a vehicle on Park Service lands as long as: the
weapon is unloaded, the weapon is broken down or made unusable - (ie. -
magazine removed or weapon lock on revolvers), the weapon must be in a case
and the weapon must be in a separate area, of the vehicle, than the
ammunition. If the weapon is in the passenger area of the vehicle it must
not be concealed.

The Federal Government does not recognize State weapons permits for
personal carry of weapons in National Parks.

Thank you for inquiring and let us know if we can be of furhter service.

David Atkins
Staff Park Ranger
Natchez Trace Parkway

that's good to know for people transiting the Trace through three states. I honestly don't know whether you should/could fight that one or not since they count the roadway as being the park. I would have thought thru-traffic would not be subject to that sort of restriction. It is a shame that the poor young man now has a weapons-related charge against him but, apparently, it IS the law on that section of road. I am from Memphis and would have never even thought about it. Doesn't it sort of "start and stop" in places as it runs from beginning to end? Damned inconvenient. If I lived in that area, I would have to figure out another route.

It also occurs to me that this could be an issue in Colorado (and many other states) in places such as the stretches of road between Estes Park and Granby (US 34 - runs through Rocky Mountain National Park), Breckinridge and Alma (CO 9 - runs through Araphoe National Forrest) and from Idaho Springs to Echo Lake then down to Bergen Park (CO 103 - also Arapahoe National Forrest). These are through-traffic roadways with access to residences, hotels and restaurants. Obviously we would not carry into state park facilities but a through road without gates doesn't seem like it should be a facility to me.

Oh, and about the loaded/unloaded thing. If it had a mag inserted containing live rounds I think almost everyone will agree it was "loaded". That was a mistake and could be what set them even further on edge.
On my last trip to NV I remember seeing signs before entering the National Park areas of Lake Mead. Don't remember the exact wording, but I got the message that if I was carrying, I should unload and secure my firearm in the trunk of the vehicle.
ecocks...the one thing about the Natchez Trace is the roadway is the national park. There are places to pull off and see certain historical sights and those are part of the park as well. The Trace starts off Highway 100 just southwest of Nashville and goes to Natchez, MS. There are several places to get on and off the trace between start and finish.
I know about the Trace

I was raised there too. But haven't driven or riden on it in over 20 years. I seem to remember running through villages and small towns along the 400+ miles of it. My point was it would be a pain to live in that area since you effectively have no carry rights on that road. God forbid you lived just off of it and it was your only way in and out. I used to work on the naval base at Bremerton, WA and the firearm was not allowed on the premises at all so it curtailed my carry ability significantly. No place to check them even when coming or going. Couldn't risk losing my position so couldn't even consider the no tell option.
What abt those who drive SUVs? Does that mean that you will have to bury your "unloaded" "Dismantled" gun in the spare tire well (eventhough it is in the passenger compartment)? Tape the magazine up under the hood so as to comply with keeping ammo and gun separate?...I guess some govt clerks stay up all night thinking of these rules....:cool:
I just sent an e-mail back asking where glove boxes and center consoles stand on the not concealed in the passenger department. As well as saddlebags when it comes to motorcycles.
There may be hope yet

Apparently a large part of the U.S. Senate is not happy about the National Park and carry situation.

Link Removed
Here is the last question I sent and response I got.


Thank you for the information sir. If I may, I would like to clarify a couple things.

If I am on my motorcycle, would having an unloaded handgun, in a locked box in one saddlebag and then having the ammunition in another saddlebag on the other side be acceptable?

Also when you mention that if the weapon is in the passenger area of a vehicle it must not be concealed...Does that mean it can not be in glove box or center console?

Again thank you for your help. I just want to make sure I am within the law when I visit/travel the parkway.

Steve Fall


In regards to a motorcycle - having the weapon in one bag and the ammo in the other is fine. The concealed weapon mainly deals with under the seat or hiding it else where in the car. If you are stopped, and carrying the weapon, just tell the Ranger where it is and you have contacted us about the proper carrying methods. If the weapon in a glove box but there is no ammunition or it is in the trunk you are showing reasonable carrying methods. If the weapon is in the glove box and the ammo in a center console, this shows you can obtain both quickly and you might be issued a ticket. I carry a weapon in a soft side zipper case and it is in the trunk, that way I am covered and it is not see if I get out of car.
I was planning a trip to a national park when I return to the US later this year. I think I may stick with the state parks and national forests they have more sensible regulations regarding this matter. I am very interested in how this proposal from those congressmen and senators will be received by the secetary of the interior.
more information

hey, guys. I found this on the NRA/ILA website:

Link Removed


Code of Federal Regulations Title 36 "Parks, Forests, Public Property"

NOTE: The National Parks are administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The National Forests are administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Generally, firearms are prohibited in National Parks but permitted in National Forests.

Firearms being transported through a Park must be rendered "inoperable": unloaded, cased, broken down (if possible) and out of sight. The ranger or gate attendant must be notified of the presence of firearms upon entering the Park.

Firearms and hunting are permitted in National Forests in accordance with state law. Firearms are prohibited in any National Forest designated a game refuge or wildlife preserve except where authorized by the Forest Service.Violation of state firearms laws is prohibited in all National Forests.

Regulations concerning firearms in National parks and Forests may be found in Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations.


1 The Congress finds that: (1) the rights of citizens: (A) to keep and bear arms under the second amendment to the United States Constitution; (B) to security against illegal and unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment; (C) against uncompensated taking of property, double jeopardy, and assurance of due process of law under the Fifth Amendment ; and (D) against unconstitutional exercise of authority under the Ninth and Tenth Amendments; require additional legislation to correct existing firearms statutes and enforcement policies; and (2) additional legislation is required to reaffirm the intent of the Congress, as expressed in section 101 of the Gun Control Act of 1968, that 'it is not the purpose of this title (18 USCS Sec.Sec.921 et seq.) to place any undue or unnecessary Federal restrictions or burdens on law-abiding citizens with respect to the acquisition, possession, or use of firearms appropriate to the purpose of hunting, trapshooting, target shooting, personal protection, or any other lawful activity, and that this title is not intended to discourage or eliminate the private ownership or use of firearms by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes'.

2 SUNSET:Effective 15 years

3 18 U.S.C.A. Sec.923 NOTE, STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION; EVIDENCE: (1) STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION.:Nothing in the amendments made by this section shall be construed: (A) as creating a cause of action against any firearms dealer or any other person for any civil liability;or (B) as establishing any standard of care. (2) EVIDENCE.:Notwithstanding any other provision of law, evidence regarding compliance or noncompliance with the amendments made by this section shall not be admissible as evidence in any proceeding of any court, agency, board, or other entity.
Title 36 information

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[Code of Federal Regulations]
[Title 36, Volume 3, Parts 300 to end]
[Revised as of July 1, 1998]
From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access
[CITE: 36CFR327.13]

[Page 10]




Sec. 327.13 Explosives, firearms, other weapons and fireworks.

The possession of loaded firearms, ammunition, loaded projectile
firing devices, bows and arrows, crossbows, explosives or explosive
devices of any kind, including fireworks, is prohibited unless:
(a) In the possession of a Federal, state or local law enforcement
(b) Being used for hunting or fishing as permitted under Sec. 327.8,
with devices being unloaded when transported to, from or between hunting
and fishing sites;
(c) Being used at authorized shooting ranges; or
(d) Written permission has been received from the District Engineer.

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