I am an RV enthusiast with more than 50 years of experience owning, driving, traveling and living in recreational vehicles.
If you are not aware of the legalities involved with carrying a weapon when you are traveling in your motorhome or camper, you need to learn about them prior to doing so.
Laws vary from state to state, and some are stricter than others. People who ignore these differences could find themselves in deep trouble. This article gives you resources for getting the information you need.
Traveling With Firearms Can Be a Major Legal Problem
It is important to learn about the legalities of traveling in your RV with a gun because the laws are complicated and can have serious penalties. If you get it wrong, you could pay heavy fines, wind up in jail or both!
To carry or not is an extremely personal decision, but more than 40% of people who travel in motor homes or campers keep them on board when they are on the road.
This choice is one that should be decided upon with great care because the laws governing the transportation of firearms across state lines, or even owning them, are extremely complex.
If you do not understand them or if you ignore them, you could find yourself in a stew pot of trouble. This may be the very reason why the other 60% of people go unarmed!
Each State Has Different Laws
Many gun owners think that because their state of residence allows them to carry, other states reciprocate. This may or may not be true, depending on whether you have the right kind of permit and where you plan to go.
To legally protect yourself, it is extremely important that you understand the different laws.
For example, many will permit you to drive directly through their state with stops only for food or gas, while others will allow a full visit. If you get caught doing the wrong thing, you could be fined or imprisoned!
Learn the Gun Carry Legalities
HandgunlawUs.com, USACarry.com and Allstays.com are all great resources that can help you find the information you need about carrying while traveling in your coach. Some of them have interactive maps that can give you a quick idea of the states that have reciprocity with the laws of yours.
Full reciprocity, by the way, means that a state honors your permit as well as your right to carry. If they only honor your permit, you had better not have a gun with you if they search your car or your RV. These laws are very specific, so do your research carefully before making a decision.
Weapons Do Not Guarantee Your Safety
There are as many reasons to carry a gun as there are not to carry one. If you do decide to keep one with you, make sure you know how to use it, and practice with it regularly. A gun will do you no good if you forget how to release the safety on it!
If you decide against carrying, it does not mean you cannot protect yourself in case of an emergency, but chances are that if you take the proper precautions, you will never have to worry about it.
I personally have traveled by one type of RV or another for more than 50 years and have never had a hint of dangerous problems. This does not mean I won't encounter an issue at some future date, but it does mean that I have always taken the precautions necessary to remain safe.
14 Good Safety Guidelines to Follow
If you do this, too, chances are you will never encounter a situation where you might need a firearm. Here are some guidelines you should always follow:
- Always travel during daylight hours.
- Stay in campgrounds or public places such as Walmart shopping centers that have security patrols.
- Stay inside your unit at night.
- Keep your doors and windows locked and keep your windows covered, especially when you are inside of your travel unit.
- If your entry door does not have a deadbolt lock on it, install one. If it does, use it.
- If you tow a car and the key holder has a red emergency button on it (most do), and you feel endangered, point the holder towards your car and press that button. This will cause the horn to honk loudly and long and will attract attention which will make an intruder or attacker think twice about hanging around.
- Always travel with a cell phone and keep it close by and turned on, especially at night. A call to 911 will give an emergency team your exact location and allow them to come to your aid quickly.
- Carry a large can of wasp spray and keep it handy. Wasp spray can shoot out about 8 feet. If someone is coming after you and you spray them directly in the eyes with it, you have disabled them and will have time to call for help.
- Never stay overnight in rest stops.
- Never walk away from your unlocked unit.
- Pay close attention to the types of people who are camped nearby.
- Do not stay at campgrounds whose residents look unsavory.
- Do drive after dark.
- Do not invite strangers into your RV.
Know the Laws
You are probably wondering whether I travel with a firearm in my recreational vehicle, but I do not want to color this article with my own views or practices on the subject.
My intent here is to let people know about the laws and why this information is important. There are many ways to stay safe on the road, and carrying a weapon is only one of many.
A Basic Overview of the Rules
Here are some rules of thumb that can give you a quick overview of what you should or should not do:
- Always make sure you have a current concealed weapons permit from your state with you.
- Generally, a rifle or shotgun can be carried legally in most states, but handguns and assault type weapons cannot.
- The states of the far western and northeastern United States along with Illinois and Canada are extremely strict and will not recognize your right to carry, even if you have a permit. In fact, if you get caught with a gun anywhere on your person, in your unit or in your tow vehicle, it will be confiscated and you will be jailed and fined.
If you do carry a weapon when you travel, it is suggested that you make it as inaccessible as possible. For example, if you tow a car, the gun should be empty of bullets, encased and placed in the trunk. The bullets should be kept separately from it, for example in the glove compartment of the car.
If you have any doubts about the laws of a state you are traveling through, keep moving. Also, make sure your destination state accepts your permit and your right to carry.
These are good basic guidelines, but nothing compares to knowing the exact laws about crossing individual state lines with a firearm on board.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: What good is a defensive weapon if it is locked in your trunk with no ammunition?
Answer: No good whatsoever, but the law is the law. However, each state has different laws and not all have this requirement.
Question: I feel that I need to carry a handgun for protection while I am traveling in my RV. My County of residence refuses to grant anyone a handgun permit. Can I get a handgun permit from another county or area in CA?
Answer: You can always make some calls to other counties to see what their laws are. The problem you'll have, however, is that if your county does not want you to have a handgun, and you bring one in from another county, you could get into big trouble. Violating gun laws can be very serious and can end up with you being fined or even jailed. I would think very carefully before trying to get a permit elsewhere. Your only option, if this is so important to you, would be to move to a place that has more amenable rules.
© 2013 Sondra Rochelle
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on July 26, 2013:
d.william: I totally agree that the state's laws regarding the carrying of firearms are disjointed and outdated. This makes it very risky for RVers who travel a lot, even though carrying a gun on board could be a life saver. I would like to see those laws change, but I doubt they will anytime soon. So, if you travel across state lines armed, take care.
d.william from Somewhere in the south on July 26, 2013:
Great article. In this day and age, it is almost a necessity to bear arms to protect yourself against intruders.
Just the fact of pointing out the different states' requirements, or laws, pertaining to owning and carrying a weapon indicates the need to re-examine how laws in this country are legislated.
It is always my contention that states should be uniform in any laws that impact every U.S. citizen in the same degree. Whether we live in one state or another should have no consequences attached to it. When we have the ability to travel (drive) from state to state it is imperative to know the laws of all states we travel through.
But more importantly there should be conformity in those laws - not disparity.
We mistakenly call ourselves the "united" states of America and act as if each state is a separate entity to be allowed the right to make their own laws without any concern for people passing through those states or who desire to change residency for any reason.
So, if this mentality persists we must change our name from "united..." to the "disjointed states of America".
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on July 07, 2013:
Blond Logic: Well, the truth is that a moving target IS harder to hit!! Sorry about your misfortune and hope you are doing well. Thanks for the read as well as the share.
Mary Wickison from Brazil on July 07, 2013:
It is a difficult decision. You have highlighted the need for serious thought beforehand and the reasons why. I would have never considered parking an RV overnight at a Walmart but I can see it would make sense to do so, if you felt your might be in an unsafe area.
I have been less fortunate than yourself and have been the victim of crimes twice. In a house, not in an RV. The last one resulting in gunshot wounds. Perhaps it is time to buy an RV and hit the road!
Good advice. Sharing this one.
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on July 06, 2013:
Hi Joe: The important point is that I have been RVing for more than 50 years without having had any problems that would have required a firearm. As I said, whether you carry or not is a personal choice, but having read some of the literature it appears that you can be safe while traveling either way. Good to see you again!
Hawaiian Odysseus from Southeast Washington state on July 06, 2013:
I almost wish you had colored the issue. The reason is because you mentioned that you have been RV'ing for over 50 years. It would have been interesting to know that recreational vehicle longevity CAN be possible without having to carry firearms. Personally, my choice is to go through life without carrying firearms. I respect the choice of others to do just the opposite. Thank you, nevertheless, for a very well written article. Aloha!