Tourist Declares Legal Handguns; Arrested Anyway

Serious consequences for gun owner abiding by one state's laws while unwittingly breaking another's

616 14
616 14

Imagine you find yourself at a tourist destination carrying your handgun in accordance with your understanding of the law only to find a “No Firearms” sign. That’s what confronted a Texas woman and former Marine when she visited the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero.

From Fox News:

Elizabeth Elderli never leaves her Houston home unarmed. So, when the 31-year-old former U.S. Marine visited Manhattan’s September 11 Memorial, two guns were in her backpack when she saw a “no firearms” sign at the security checkpoint.

Elderli told a police officer about the loaded 9-mm. and .380-caliber semi-automatic guns — both covered by her Texas-issued concealed weapons permit, which she believed was valid in New York, her attorney claims. But she quickly learned that the Empire State’s gun control laws bear no resemblance to those in effect back home. Elderli was arrested in the Saturday incident, charged with felony possession of a weapon and left facing 3 ½ to 15 years in prison.

“She did what every responsible gun owner would do,” her attorney, Amy Bellantoni, told “If she thought she was doing something wrong, she would have turned around and walked out.

“There’s absolutely no criminal intent here,” the lawyer added.

Elderli’s arrest is the latest in a string of cases involving out-of-state, gun-toting tourists arrested and charged in New York, which has among the nation’s toughest firearms laws. Gun control advocates say it is up to firearms owners to know the laws in jurisdictions they visit, and have little sympathy for people who carry guns in from states with less stringent laws. But the treatment of Elderli and other citizens underscores the serious consequences faced by a gun owner who abides by one state’s laws, but unwittingly breaks another’s.

A 52-year-old woman with a permit to carry a handgun in Florida was arrested last month in Jersey City, N.J., while trying to board a ferry to Ellis Island with her weapon. Elizabeth Griffith, of Daytona Beach, could face up to 10 years in prison for unlawful possession of a firearm. New Jersey also has strict handgun regulations.

Many gun control advocates argue that Elderli is responsible for the fix she’s in. Others may see it as evidence that something is needed to standardize concealed carry laws that vary from state to state and, in many cases, city to city.

What do you think? Should Congress get involved to prevent these kinds of misunderstandings, or is it better for the legislative branch to just stay out of it?

In this article

Join the Conversation


  1. Jeremy Griffith Reply

    There is one common law in regards to this and it’s the Constitution, specifically the second amendment! This law, grabbing people’s guns who are not committing any crime, is unconstitutional. How can you have gay marriage declared constitutional when it appears no where in the constitution but you can arrest people for having a lawful firearm in a state or city where the second amendment specifically expresses your right? Hello?

    1. John Reply

      You know what else isn’t in the constitution? Straight marriage. The constitution doesn’t spell everything out, despite what many people think. But it spells some important things out.

  2. john Reply

    Now this is an interesting case. Do we want ignorance of the law to be an excuse or not?

    Certainly the law says that ignorance of the law is no excuse, and certainly those willing to pack a firearm and travel around with it bear a higher burden than the average citizen to FIND OUT what the law is where they are travelling. Heck, conservatives want to make it tougher on the average citizen by allowing each shopkeeper to enforce their rendition of the law (under the guise of a “deeply held religious conviction”) wherein an unsuspecting christian woman might serendipitously find herself inside a muslim establishment with the shopowner calling for the virtue police to harrass her for not wearing a chador. Yet, these same conservatives want to rally behind this woman because her ignorance should translate into her innocence.

    Alas, you asked a question. I’m not in favor of punishing people for ignorance. But people will abuse “ignorance” at the drop of a hat and beg for forgiveness rather than asking permission. Guns are simply too dangerous in public to suffer that ruse. So yes, Congress should get involved and ban open carry – period. everywhere.

    If you feel endangered by your fellow man, then don’t go out the door in the morning. Grow your own food and stay in your cocoon and be self sufficient. With Amazon and drone deliveries you never need leave your home.

    1. Cargosquid Reply

      Wow…that escalated quickly.

      You move from a reasonable position concerning ignorance of the law to the full potato position of banning all carry.

      Your assertion, “Guns are simply too dangerous in public to suffer that ruse. So yes, Congress should get involved and ban open carry – period. everywhere.”
      is not backed by any evidence at all.

      In fact, the empirical evidence shows that ownership and carry has skyrocketed and carry has NOT caused an increase in gun crime or “gun violence.” The reverse is true. Gun violence has dropped. Increased ownership and carry may not have caused it…..but the decrease proves that carry does not increase problems. MILLIONS of people carry. Still waiting for all these problems that people like you keep predicting.

      Please continue, however. We pro-civil liberty people LOVE it when people like yourself open advocate infringing upon civil liberties.

      1. John Reply

        Empirical evidence? Please to show it. I’ve seen numerous peer reviewed studies and no empirical evidence I’ve seen to date comes close to validating your claims. I would like to see it. Maybe I’ll change my position.

        All evidence to date rightly suggests that more guns = more deaths…including this study on causes of police deaths.

        Of course, we pro-life people feel that ultimately the most important thing to most people is to be able to stay alive.

        1. Jeremy Reply

          “All evidence to date rightly suggests that more guns = more deaths…”

          This statement is false.

          The truth is that there is evidence to support both claims and if you do a simple google search you will see many studies with differing data. Your supporting evidence cites one study performed by a team from The University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, hardly an unbiased source.

          1. Kimadmin

            There are no studies cited in this story. Neither is the declarative sentence you quoted.

  3. Dani Reply

    With all the dangers we face today, Americans who want to carry should carry, especially members of the Military or ex-Military. The only thing that congress should do is legislate law that would allow people to transport their legally held firearms over state lines without issue.

    The Supreme Court recently ruled that each and every marriage is legal in every state, nullifying any state law to the contrary. The same should be done in the case of firearms. If congress doesn’t do it, perhaps the Court will take it up. The right to bear arms is a fundamental right. This Marine did not deserve this and anyone who believes she does should rethink their position.

    1. John Reply

      What the supreme court ruled is thus: The 14th amendment ALWAYS guaranteed LGBT community equal treatment and therefore ALL UNCONSITUTIONAL LAWS PASSED SUBSEQUENTLY to it, which attempted to take away that constitutional guarantee, were invalidated.

      That is a far cry from nullifying state laws. In truth none of those state laws existed until recently when heterosexuals started fearing the LGBT community and decided they should put some impediments in the way. Because most marital rights (Social Security, Income Tax, Inheritance, Medicare, etc.) stem from the Federal government (something like 1100) versus state governments (250) it made little sense to not apply equal protection and full faith clauses because many companies do business across state lines. States can still pass marital rights in their states for what their state ADDS to federal rights. Missouri can pass a law saying they will give all married couples icecream on tuesdays to incentivize people to marry. Texas doesn’t have to honor that law.

      The right to bear arms is highly in question…at least in the degree to which one can bear. Every single amendment to the bill of rights has limits on it. None are absolute. The 2nd is no different.

  4. Jason B Reply

    John, you make too many leaps of logic here.

    First, reciprocity is the normal way law is handled between the states. Get a speeding ticket in one state, but belong to another? You’ll be fined in the state you belong in. Married in one state, but moved to another? Your marriage license follows you. Same should also be for gun laws- and in this case, the lady in the article was trying to do the right thing. The problem is that NY law is fuzzy on what to do with reciprocity in regards to guns from other states- they ultimately will release the woman in question, because she’s a Texas resident. But at the same time, they want to prosecute her as though she’s a New Yorker. And also, intent is a factor: she’s not a threat, never was one, and never should have been viewed as such. This is all about busybody administrators in NY who want to throw their weight around to feel important.

    And pray tell, why do you think guns are dangerous in public? If you mean in gun free zones like Chicago, you’d be right. But Texas isn’t a haven for gun crime- and they have open carry. In fact, there really hasn’t been much of a problem with open carry- and the courts have agreed that it should be extended.

    And the world is a nasty and brutish place- if you want to protect yourself, it’s your right to do so. If you want the government to protect you, enjoy fascism. Because that’s what it’ll end up as.

    1. John Reply

      Having trained in Logic and practiced it as a career for 30 years, i think it unlikely I’ve made any leaps. An inability to follow my logic is as likely to be just that, lack of ability, as it is to be a leap. That said, I’ll engage you.

      1. Rights follow you to another state. WRONG. Marrital STATUS may follow you and thus your FEDERAL rights with it. However, as has been clearly proven with the recent gay marriage cases…STATES RIGHT DO NOT FOLLOW YOU. That’s why they are called states rights. So, if in your state married couples have to pay state income tax at a certain rate, and my state of Texas married couples pay no state income Tax, and I move to your state, I don’t become exempt from state income tax.

      2. What ultimately happens with this woman is not the question the author of the story asked. What was asked is what should happen with STATES RIGHTS. It’s a good question – and one I find usually finds conservatives supporting when it suits them and denying when it doesn’t. I’m on the fence myself about states rights and ultimately think that for national efficiency they should mostly go by the wayside. That said…the purpose of states rights IS experimentation and proof of concept. So I think states need to move to a federal model more and more. A federal base of rights must be respected and states can add “restrictions” or “rights” which don’t contradict federal as needed. Basically that’s what we have. I guess the question in response is how can anyone complain about this patchwork and still support states rights? By the way, the notion of “reciprocity” as some are using it is absurd. That seems to suggest that if one state passes a law then all must respect it. If that were acceptable why would we even need congress? We’d all suddenly be victim to the whims of each state. Alabama would pass a law and just as quickly maine would pass a counter law and pretty soon we’d have the most amazing gridlock imaginable. That’s why there’s no such thing as this “reciprocity” notion. Thank goodness.

      3. Every research study, including the one released today, shows that MORE guns equals MORE deaths. That’s incontrovertible. Because they studies are based upon POPULATION statistics (as they should be), their conclusions are not to be interpreted as each person who has a gun is more dangerous, or even as MOST people with guns are more dangerous. They merely show that as population of guns goes up, population of deaths goes up. And todays study showed conclusively that police deaths rise as populations of guns go up. New York Police are wise to be wary and to enforce their laws. They are using the data to save police lives. So should we all.

      4. The only people who ever seem to bring up the Fascism argument are the ones who seem closest to fascists. Perhaps you should research what characteristics are typical of fascists. You might scare yourself. The world is a dangerous place and there are no lifeguards on duty. That said, wearing a lifesaver in public is probably statistically more likely to come in handy for saving a life than wearing a gun in public.

  5. Keith Glass Reply

    The young lady in question had a valid Concealed Carry Permit. Article IV, Section 1 of the Constitution requires all of the several States to bear full faith and credit to the actions of the other States. That’s why, for example, driver’s and marriage licenses from one state, are recognized without question by all other states.

    Putting aside, for the moment, the fact that the Second Amendment gives an unambiguous right to keep and bear arms, the lawfully-issue Concealed Carry Permit from Texas should have been recognized as valid by the City and State of New York. The fact that it was not only NOT recognized, but the young lady was imprisoned and brought up on criminal charges is a travesty of justice. . .

    1. J. C. Salomon Reply

      Correction: it’s not marriage licenses (i.e. the document giving a couple permission to get married) which are recognized between states but marriage registration. In fact, I doubt that you can get married in one state based on a marriage license issued in another. The Full Faith and Credit clause covers things like registrations, not licenses. (Driver’s licenses are a special case: I don’t know the specifics but I think reciprocity is technically a voluntary arrangement between the states, probably encouraged by Washington somehow.)

  6. J. C. Salomon Reply

    While I wish my state’s gun laws made it easier to get permits, and while I think reciprocity is a good idea, I do not see that Congress has the authority under the Constitution to mandate that NYS recognize permits issued elsewhere. They could possibly tie it to a carrot-and-stick in some Federal grants, but
    (a) you’ll have a hard time convincing Congress to do so; and
    (b) Albany is likely to reject Federal dollars tied to such gun laws.

    Education is the answer. When your state issues a concealed-carry permit, they should include a notice reminding the recipient that not all states accept it (maybe include a link to and that it’s his responsibility to check before he travels.