Lots of people get vanity license plates. So far as I know, pretty much every state has them and plenty of people use them to express ideas and things that they enjoy.
Sure, there are limits–no state is going to approve a racist message on a vanity plate, after all, nor would they approve obvious threats–but since this is a kind of free speech, those limits need to be, well, limited.
But what about someone posting a favorite gun caliber?
In an anti-gun state, no one would be shocked to see that rejected, but what about in a relatively pro-gun state?
I ask because it happened to one Georgia man.
Ryan Reganos has had the license plate 357 MAG in Georgia for nearly 20 years. During that time, he’s never had an issue. As he changed vehicles, he simply transferred the tag to the new one.
Yet, as things tend to do, the plate started looking a little rough. So, he applied for a new one with the same message on it. That’s when things got interesting.
“I was approved with no problems, received a temporary tag while waiting on the new prestige plate,” Reganos said. He continued, “Shortly afterward, I received a letter in the mail of denial. The denial said, ‘Contains any combination of letters or numbers which might reasonably result in an immediate breach of the peace.'”
That seems more than a little strange.
After all, 357 MAG may be a gun reference, but it’s not a threat to anyone or likely to cause any understandable upset. Moreover, Reganos notes that it’s not like this was a new request.
“I have had this tag since was 16 or 17 years old. I am 36 right now. Paid taxes on it every year when all the renewal notice came. This tag has never caused an issue much less an immediate breach of the peace in the 20 years of ownership nor experienced spontaneous violence associated with it,” he said.
Reganos did what any reasonable person did. He took advantage of the appeals process, which gave him 30 days to appeal the decision.
He filed the appeal, which was signed for by someone with the state, then when he followed up, he was told that no appeal had been filed.
So, I reached out to the Georgia Department of Revenue, the agency that oversees license plates in the state. Spokesperson Austin Gibbons declined to comment in any specific capacity, citing state law that prevents officials from discussing individuals’ license plates, registration state, and other such personal information.
Which was a shame.
Even in a general sense, there were still no answers as to why Reganos was denied.
The term “immediate breach of the peace” sounds like something that would be highly likely to cause a problem. However, Reganos says his license plate never caused a problem.
Reganos told Bearing Arms that the former sheriff and chief deputy in his county would be willing to sign documents stating that the plate never caused any breach of the peace, for example.
So what gives?
Here we have to delve into speculation, but the most likely reason for the ultimate denial is that the plate in question is ostensibly pro-gun.
We’ve seen a lot of examples over the years of people trying to push guns into the proverbial closet. They want guns and gun ownership to be seen as taboo, as something to be ashamed of or to hide rather than to acknowledge openly.
A license plate that reads 357 MAG is kind of a middle finger to that attitude.
As a result, it seems likely that some anti-gun bureaucrats decided that a guy in a small town in Georgia had no business being open about his love of firearms. As such, they denied his license plate request, then conveniently lost his appeal until it was too late for him to do anything about it.
I asked Mr. Gibbons what alternatives Reganos had, but he did not reply as of this writing.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s a license plate. It’s not the most pressing issue we’re going to face. Yet what we’re seeing is important because I feel it’s a symptom. It’s another sign that some are trying to stigmatize gun ownership in this country.
While any manner of depravity you care to name is being mainstreamed and celebrated, the exercise of the right to keep and bear arms isn’t, and putting something gun related on a license plate is an “immediate breach of the peace.”
Sometimes, you just can’t make this stuff up.