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View Full Version : Grip Straps - legal question


Richard Erichsen
04-09-2011, 4:31 PM
I'm seeing an increasing number of folks using Kydex grip straps to comply the AW law - specifically rendering the grip non-wraparound and at least a lot less conspicuous a grip than it would be otherwise, though could be interpreted as below the action despite this. I'm no expert on statutory construction, but is it AND in this instance, or OR?

The Kydex itself is screwed together, perhaps epoxy bonded as an alternative. Is anyone aware of any case law that has resulted in the grip strap being deemed in compliance? Is there a pending decision with the DOJ on the same topic?

I worry that I'll finish a build, head to the shooting range with my featureless, grip strapped equipped weapon only to have an off-duty LEO decide it's an AW. Given the threads discussing how to not get arrested for your OLL starts with making sure to not do something foolish or build a weapon that gets attention, I'm wondering if grip straps are indeed sufficient at this point in time. The salient point too is to avoid opening your yap among people whose task it is use any words you may happen to speak against you.

I understand the DOJ has not yet formally decided to accept that grip straps do not fit the definition of a wraparound grip or a conspicuous pistol grip below the action, at least that I'm aware of. Intuitively, grip straps do not fit the definition, but going by intuition when it comes to legal decisions is a recipe for disaster. I also understand getting the DOJ to rule on these topics decisively (without overstepping or failing to conclusively and consistently address the issue) are at best problematic. Is anyone aware of a pending decision with a high level signature that says otherwise?

I'd really like to have something concrete, in writing, in my gun case and my rifle bag to give me a warm and fuzzy that if an encounter with an LEO does happen, I have some documentation to hand to them while remaining mute otherwise. I want an unambiguous hardcopy the LEO can verify. Chances are if I have this question about grip straps, many otherwise well meaning LEOs may have the same question and that could spell trouble for owners with featureless OLLs with grip straps. I hate relying on individual discretion of the LEO; you may get by without more than a few minutes of unwanted attention on one occassion, but what about the next time?

How comfortable is everyone that grip straps are enough like the U15 and MM in concept that a LE agency can figure it out and come to that conclusion without much if any communication from you? Is printing out the SAC PD memo and the flowchart really sufficient? I see what I consider to be too much room for individual interpretation in the flow chart (only U15 and MM are mentioned by name - could be interpreted as exhaustive rather than descriptive, unfortunately) and the aforementioned discretion that I fear won't necessarily go the way of the owner. I could be paranoid, but this is one issue where all due diligence is probably called for.

-R

Cokebottle
04-09-2011, 4:33 PM
The DOJ has not formally accepted the MMG, U15, or the bullet button either.

They won't.

Richard Erichsen
04-09-2011, 4:42 PM
So what guidance does the LEO have, other than their own experience and interpretation of the law? If none of the methods folks are using are officially approved (effectively taking DOJ out of the role of making a decisive decision), then that leaves the courts to decide.

Is there any case law where the interpretation has been challenged yet? Is the whole goal of the DOJ's reticence to render a "does" or "does not conform" decision to leave owners with the nagging fear that the next traffic stop or visit to the range could land us in hot water?

-R

Cokebottle
04-09-2011, 5:11 PM
That is the risk that we take, and why it is important that we do not dive head first into "EBR" ownership without personally researching and learning the laws.

An uneducated LEO is more likely to be open to learning about the law if you can make a presentation that goes beyond "I read it on Calguns"

To help you relax, to date, there have been a number of arrests and confiscations, but thanks to the actions of the Calguns Foundation, there has not been ONE successful conviction involving a legally-configured off-list-lower weapon.

Keep it legal, and CGF has your back. Start mucking around in grey areas and that's where the problems come in. The Kydex wraps have been around for a few years, and so far they have been treated no differently from the MMG.

Having said that, someone reported a Kydex cover being sold at the Costa Mesa show that did not secure in a manner that required tools to remove. It simply slipped over the grip.
While possibly legal, it's pushing it, and it would be extremely easy for a "bad cop" to remove the cover before booking the rifle into evidence.
The same would go for keeping the red Prince "Bullet Button Wrench" or a "mag magnet" in the rifle case.

Personally, I have an "education kit" that stays with my ARs. I have a full set of flowcharts, plus the Sacramento PD and OCSD training bulletins printed out. One set in full color and laminated, and about 10 sets printed in B&W and stapled together as "take home" sets.

G-forceJunkie
04-09-2011, 5:12 PM
So what guidance does the LEO have, other than their own experience and interpretation of the law?

None.
If none of the methods folks are using are officially approved (effectively taking DOJ out of the role of making a decisive decision), then that leaves the courts to decide.

Yup.


Is there any case law where the interpretation has been challenged yet?
nothing definitive.

Is the whole goal of the DOJ's reticence to render a "does" or "does not conform" decision to leave owners with the nagging fear that the next traffic stop or visit to the range could land us in hot water?

-R

Exactly.

Richard Erichsen
04-09-2011, 5:30 PM
...<snip>
An uneducated LEO is more likely to be open to learning about the law if you can make a presentation that goes beyond "I read it on Calguns"...<snip>

...<snip>Personally, I have an "education kit" that stays with my ARs. I have a full set of flowcharts, plus the Sacramento PD and OCSD training bulletins printed out. One set in full color and laminated, and about 10 sets printed in B&W and stapled together as "take home" sets.

Rich,

Help me square this circle - on the one hand, we need to remember not to talk to police because it's far too easy for any words we speak to be used against us - on the other hand, have printed materials available as an education kit. An LEO who plays the curious novice could be inviting a conversation that looks very different on the police report that gets handed to the assistant DA. Where is the line between "don't talk" and having materials handy that you might be tempted to talk through with the LEO? I want to have the materials speak for themselves and avoid saying anything at all. Where is your line - do you just hand your laminated documents over when a question of legality of your OLL comes up and then stand silent? Is it ever wise to speak in these maters with LEOs present?

-R

Fate
04-09-2011, 5:42 PM
...someone reported a Kydex cover being sold at the Costa Mesa show that did not secure in a manner that required tools to remove. It simply slipped over the grip.
While possibly legal, it's pushing it, and it would be extremely easy for a "bad cop" to remove the cover before booking the rifle into evidence.
That's crazy.

I have been running fins on my featureless ARs since before the MonsterMan came out. My first versions were similar to the current kydex overwraps except I also epoxied a thin steel plate into the back of the grip. Then the overwrap was bolted thru that fin and around the grip. My fear has always been of things going sideways if a less than scrupulous LEO decided to unscrew the overwrap prior to backup arriving. Thus I added something more permanent.

http://hotimg23.fotki.com/a/76_169/223_24/M16A1_newgripDETAIL.jpg

I'm not saying the current Kydex overwraps are a legal grey area. They're not. I would just epoxy the screws shut (making it permanent on the grip), but that's not from a legal perspective but rather a C.Y.A. one.

My current fin is 12 gauge steel that is bolted to the grip with locknuts deep inside the grip. The only way they will come off is if you use a thin hemostat to hold them while you use a screwdriver to unscrew them. It's much harder to remove than the current Kydex wrap fins that you can take off in seconds.

Still, the best defense is to KNOW YOUR SH$% and be able to quote P.C. as to WHY your grip is legal. Carrying flowcharts is good as well. But bottom line, don't rely on "I read on CalGuns that it was ok" as your defense. Research these things for yourself. Learn WHY it's legal and understand the possible pitfalls of using certain items on a featureless build. Good luck.

http://hotimg23.fotki.com/a/76_169/223_24/StagCarbine_FinGripleft_sm.jpg

http://hotimg23.fotki.com/a/76_169/223_24/StagCarbine_FinGripRight626.jpg

http://hotimg23.fotki.com/a/76_169/223_24/StagCarbine_FinGrip_3_4view.jpg

Cokebottle
04-09-2011, 5:42 PM
I am always polite when encountering LEOs.
It's always worked, I haven't had so much as a traffic ticket since 1991... and I've been pulled over doing 80+ on the freeway by CHP and by my local PD for burned out license plate lights and cracked windshields.

Yes, there is a line between comments in a discussion that could be self-incriminating, and general comments related to the law.

Richard Erichsen
04-09-2011, 6:26 PM
...<snip>
I have been running fins on my featureless ARs since before the MonsterMan came out. My first versions were similar to the current kydex overwraps except I also epoxied a thin steel plate into the back of the grip. Then the overwrap was bolted thru that fin and around the grip. My fear has always been of things going sideways if a less than scrupulous LEO decided to unscrew the overwrap prior to backup arriving. Thus I added something more permanent. <snip>

Well done. Fellow paranoid with the right CYA attitude. If a dolop of epoxy and thread lock applied to the kydex grip strap will help (and render the unit forever bonded as a single assembly) in addition to the previously discussed laminated OCPD/SAC PD memos and flow charts that one should keep on hand at all times, I would hope that this combination would demonstrate awareness of and adherence to some fairly complicated legal frameworks. I don't think I'd be as trusting as some with regard to LEO interaction - courteous I can do, but it's going to be limited to name rank and serial number until I get the all clear that whatever caught the LEO's attention amounted to nothing.

I also don't feel comfortable attempting to educate an LEO on the laws they are enforcing and it shouldn't be my job as joe citizen to do so. Every syllable I may utter related to the law is just too easily misconstrued as my interpretation vs. theirs, or worse. I've had my share of the worst variety of LEOs (equal mix of arrogance and ignorance, a dangerous thing), which is where my trepidation about talking too much with an LEO about just about anything probably originates.

-R

AK4me
04-09-2011, 6:35 PM
Heres a grip fin i just finished a few days ago, I milled a 1/8" slot in the grip and used 1/8" kydex and epoxy to hold it together.
http://i978.photobucket.com/albums/ae263/AK4me/Gun%20Stuff/AKstuff001.jpg
http://i978.photobucket.com/albums/ae263/AK4me/Gun%20Stuff/AKstuff003.jpg
http://i978.photobucket.com/albums/ae263/AK4me/Gun%20Stuff/AKstuff017.jpg