Personnel Profile: John Machtinger

[B]How did you get involved in firearms laws? Was there a particular incident that influenced you to write your book?[/B]

I was a business attorney doing both transactions and litigation. During the Los Angeles riots in 1992, many of my clients feared for their safety. They all asked me the same thing: “Can I have my gun in my car?”

After researching then answering this question a dozen times, I decided to see what materials were available to the public to help them understand the issue, which can be complicated. The only widely available publication was a state pamphlet that was basically a laundry list of laws. I realized I could be of service by using my writing skills to sort through the firearms laws and express them in plain English.

The result was How to Own a Gun & Stay Out of Jail, which took me a year to research and write. I publish it myself. Since 1995, it’s sold about 90,000 copies over 11 editions.

[B]What has the reaction been like? Has it changed your professional practice?[/B]

My practice has always involved research and writing, so the book hasn’t changed that. And while I can speak in front of a criminal jury and negotiate plea bargains with district attorneys, I generally refer criminal firearms defense work to lawyers who do only criminal law. My role in the firearms-law community has been to provide a nonpartisan, up-to-date guide to gun laws that a variety of people can rely on.

The biggest effect on me has been the people I’ve met. Regardless of where you stand on gun rights, the owners and employees of gun shops, as well as law-enforcement personnel who deal with concealed carry permits, are wonderful people, almost to a person. Every time I get a call asking me to ship a box of books, I enjoy talking to them. I’ve known some people for years entirely over the phone.

[B]Is there any fact or piece of advice in the book that really surprises people?[/B]

What strikes people first are simply how many laws there are in the book. This is a 192-page book filled with gun laws. I’ve tried hard to make them easy to understand and retain, and I think I’ve succeeded. But the California Legislature passes more firearms laws every year, and there is quite a mountain of them.

One area of interest for many readers is when you can use a gun in self-defense. I summarize several interesting self-defense cases in the book. It’s always enjoyable for a lay person to read the facts of a good case and learn which side the appellate court ruled in favor of and why.

[B]Do you do other books or guides for other states?[/B]

I’ve thought about it–a national version would be very profitable–but every state has different laws. I feel comfortable keeping on top of California and federal law. But I prefer to leave other states’ laws to lawyers who practice there, and several have come out with firearms law guides for their own states.
Are you a hunter or target shooter yourself? What kinds of things do you like to do in your spare time?[/B]

I’ve been a gun owner since I was old enough to own one, and target shooting is a part of that. Plus, it’s fun. I’m not a hunter. My favorite thing to shoot is photographs, especially of our 5-month-old baby girl.

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