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Ask Our Lawyer - April 2008


Q: While traveling or riding my bike how can I carry a gun legally? Even to just go to the firing range or something like that. I do have a current FOID (Firearm Owner's Identification) card.
Mike Brunson, Liberty Chapter, A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois

A: Your question is a good one. As with most questions, there is both a federal law, which would govern transporting firearms across state lines, and state law, which govern transportation within your state. First, federal law. The applicable federal regulation states that a person legally entitled to possess a firearm may transport that firearm if it is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle. In the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment, the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console. 18 U.S.C. § 926a.
What that means for riders is that your unloaded firearm should be in a locked case, with the ammunition in a separate locked case, preferably stored in separate saddlebags. For the very cautious, you can remove the cylinder from a revolver and place the unloaded cylinder, or the unloaded clip for your semi-auto, in a third, locked box. Your saddlebags should also lock, in order keep your firearms secured.
In Illinois, three statutory codes regulate the possession, transfer, and transportation of firearms — the Criminal Code, the Wildlife Code, and the Firearm Owner's Identification Act. Under Unlawful Use of Weapons (UUW) in the Criminal Code, persons who have been issued a valid FOID card may transport a firearm anywhere in their vehicle or on their person as long as the firearm is unloaded and enclosed in a case, firearm carrying box, shipping box or other container. Firearms that are not immediately accessible or are broken down in a non-functioning state may also be carried or transported under the Criminal Code. The Wildlife Code, however, is more restrictive. It requires that all firearms transported in or on any vehicle be unloaded and in a case. Other states have similar statutes. Check with your local gun club or sheriff’s department for additional details.


Q: I'm an attorney and an A.B.A.T.E. of Ohio member who is involved in local party politics. Friends in the local club who ride have asked me to organize a group of motorcyclists to enjoy riding and to support our candidates and goals. Any particular thoughts on how we should organize?

A: Another interesting question that involves the intersection of state and federal laws. Generally, I would recommend that you organize as a non-profit corporation, in order to take advantage of the immunity provided to volunteers (except of course for cases of intentional torts and gross negligence). Typically, that would be all of the organization you need. If you wish, you could consider applying for federal tax-exempt status so that donations to the group would be tax-deductible.
However, since you are discussing political advocacy, you will need to consider the various requirements of the IRS and the FEC (Federal Election Commission) to see if you should register as a 501(c)(3), 501 (c)(4), or 527 organization, or if you wish to be a PAC. This will involve making decisions about the nature and purpose of your organization and will impact the tax-exempt status of the donations made to the group. This is a tricky area, so you should get further information from the FEC regarding 527s and PACs, or call our office


You’ll remember that we reported last year that sneaky Indiana politicians snuck a provision into state law that assessed a $10.00 fee on motorcycle registrations to fund research on spinal cord injuries. Needless to say, this discriminatory legislation was a hot topic in biker circles this year and a top priority for the Indiana legislative affairs team. It is with no small pride that I can report (as one of our A.B.A.T.E. correspondents put it) “WE WON, WE WON, WE WON!!!!!!” The discriminatory legislation will sunset on December 31st and be replaced by a general $.30 assessment on all vehicle registrations. Congratulations to the legislative affairs team, and thanks for all your hard work.


I got these in an email recently. I thought I would share some of them with you.

Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul.
Never be afraid to slow down.
A bike on the road is worth two in the shed.
Young riders pick a destination and go... Old riders pick a direction and go.
People are like Motorcycles: each is customized a bit differently.
Everyone crashes. Some get back on. Some don't. Some can't.
Don't argue with an 18-wheeler.
Never be ashamed to unlearn an old habit.
There are drunk riders. There are old riders. There are NO old, drunk riders.
Only a Biker knows why a dog sticks his head out of a car window.
There are two types of people in this world, people who ride motorcycles and people who wish they could.


Q: I just read your article about the No Contact Rule in many motorcycle insurance policies. I had American Family Insurance on my motorcycle. My policy says the facts of the “no hit and run” accident have to be proved. Am I ok with this policy or do I need to get another insurance company?
John Davies, Member, A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois, Dukane Chapter.

A: John – good question. I think this provision is acceptable. At least it is not an outright exclusion under the “NO HIT, NO COVERAGE” rule of many motorcycle insurance policies. I urge all of you to read your insurance policy and determine whether or not it requires contact with the adverse vehicle for you to have coverage for a No Hit and Runner. If you have that provision, fire that company and get another, motorcycle friendly insurance carrier. The reason is that if someone runs you off the road, and there is no contact, that insurance company will deny your claim under your uninsured motorist coverage provision.


Comment: My name is Kelly Bridges and I am secretary for Lake County, Region 2, A.B.A.T.E. of Indiana. This is my third term in office, fourth year as an A.B.A.T.E. member. I read your article on the insurance companies and loop holes that may be in motorcycle policies, specifically the “no contact” issue. I have been in the insurance industry for almost 30 years and have been a licensed insurance agent since 1997, specializing in motorcycle insurance. One of the reasons I became involved with A.B.A.T.E. is because so many riders are unaware of the kind of coverage they have or need, or how much is enough, and I have always promoted that each rider should take the time to read his or her policy, or take it to a professional that knows motorcycle insurance, for a review.

While I have moved on from selling motorcycle insurance, I make an effort to stay on top of the ever-changing policy forms from various carriers. ... It is true ... that under the uninsured/underinsured section of a policy in the State of Indiana, that in order to have a valid claim for property damage or bodily injury, there must be contact with an identifiable driver and/or vehicle. This, again is also true for a private passenger vehicle policy. As I am sure you have had your experience with a variety of insurance companies, the sub-standard carriers are more apt to look for a “way out” of a claim, which is why I do my best to educate my fellow bikers.

... As far as carriers offering seasonal coverages, I will admit there are a few out there that still write policies this way. However, if a bike owner purchases this policy from an agent, it is the agent’s responsibility to explain the coverage, just as I’m sure you explain to your clients what the law says and what their options are when they come to you for help. It is not the carrier’s fault for offering this type of coverage. There are plenty of bikers out there who put their bikes away for winter, no matter what, so they don’t want to pay for an entire year. But, there are many insurance companies that have now discontinued these types of policies because of the increase in riders and change in riders needs. ...


Q: We have a chapter name that we are very proud of, along with chapter events that are very important fundraisers for our organization. Do we have to do anything legally to protect our interest in that name?

A: We receive these inquiries about trademarking the names of chapters and chapter events several times a year. Technically, a trade name is not considered a trademark or entitled to protection under trademark laws unless it is accompanied by a product or service. If a name is used to identify a service or event, the name will then be considered a trademark and entitled to protection if it is distinctive enough.

A trademark includes any word, name, symbol, or device or any combination used or intended to be used, in business, to identify and distinguish an event or organization.

One of the good things about trademarks as opposed to patents, is that trademarks have protection forever, as long as they are being used. Another question is: Should our A.B.A.T.E. organization trademark an event and its name? The common law provides for protection if you do nothing more than use the name and were the first to utilize the name of that event. Certainly, one is afforded greater legal protection if the name of the event is “trademarked,” but that may not be worth the expense, particularly if you can prove the first usage of the name for your A.B.A.T.E. organization.


I have been getting hate mail from out-of-state personal injury lawyers about my article on A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services. Let me be clear about this – I did not say that all out-of-state personal injury lawyers are dirty rotten scoundrels – just some of them. Seriously, my article lauds the achievement of A.B.A.T.E. in creating its own legal services programs to be used by its members as they choose. It just so happens that the three strongest state A.B.A.T.E. organizations in the country are Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, and they all have their own A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services program. I think that says it all.


Ride Safe and Free,

Rod Taylor

A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to: Ask Our Lawyer, P.O. Box 2850, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206_2850, or email rodtaylor@abatelegal.com. © 2005, A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services