There are few thrills greater for an RV enthusiast than being behind the wheel. There's nothing like exploring new locales and seeing the country first hand. Traveling in an RV can be exciting and romantic, but personal safety should always come first. In this article, we will be discussing a traveler's right to carry a firearm for protection.
At some point, every RV owner must decide whether or not they want to be armed when traveling. While the nomadic RV lifestyle can be quite exciting, it is almost always safe. There are, however, various precarious situations where a firearm or other protective weapon could come in handy and should be considered.
Being armed on the road is a great responsibility not to be taken lightly. If you find that it’s necessary to do so, be sure to educate yourself on the laws of the states in which you will be traveling and the places you will visit. Hopefully, your trip will be enjoyable and without incident.
An estimated 60% or more of those traveling in RVs carry a firearm with them on the road, so if you decide to carry a gun while traveling, you won’t be alone. Obviously, this is a hot button issue. So let's take some time to unpack the process and help you decide if traveling with a weapon is right for you.
Disclaimer: As an RV owner, you are entirely responsible for all decisions you make regarding owning a firearm. You must know the laws of the area you are traveling through and abide by them.
Research is key to making an informed decision. Let's take a look at the three most important questions that RVers must answer.
Question #1: What Firearm Can I Travel With In My RV?
If you are an RVer, choosing the right firearm takes research. Remember, state gun laws vary widely, so it is important to do your due diligence. For example, the Northeastern States and California have strict weapon laws (regarding magazine capacities) with a variety of specific regulations. On the flip side, states like Kansas, Alaska and Arizona combine strong laws with easy to adhere rules.
As the editor of Guns and Ammo.com says, "State-specific gun laws are a complicated, frustrating and fluid subject."
Essentially, you can travel with a rifle, shotgun or handgun. A revolver or semi-automatic handgun with a capacity of no more than six rounds is generally acceptable for personal protection from coast to coast.
Question #2: Where Can I Store My Weapon?
When your RV is moving in a public space like a road or highway, you are subject to the laws of that particular state or local municipality. Storing your firearm in the trunk or an outside locked compartment is always the best practice. Law enforcement officials want to know the weapon is not readily accessible by the occupants of your RV. Also, your firearm must be unloaded, and the ammunition kept separate from the gun. Keep permits and licenses within easy reach.
In regards to storage, here are some important terms you will want to be familiar with:
Peaceable Journey - is a federal law that allows the gun owner to travel through states where they do not have a license to carry, without fear of being arrested. It requires the firearm to be unloaded, in a locked box and out of the driver's reach when they are in the vehicle or RV.
Concealed Carry- A concealed carry permit is issued to gun owners allowing them to carry a loaded weapon either on their person or within easy reach. When traveling with a firearm, it’s best to have a concealed carry permit from your home state. Many states require the gun owner to pass a series of tests to assure their proficiency with the weapon, which may include both classroom and live-fire training. A few states simply require a background check for this permit.
A concealed carry permit does not necessarily allow you to keep your gun loaded while traveling through a state. Your state issued concealed carry permit may or may not be recognized in a different state. Again, your due diligence and personal research of the law is required.
Question #3: When Is The Use Of Deadly Force Justified?
Once you turn off the RV and set up camp, your RV essentially transforms from vehicle to home. It is at this point that the Castle Doctrine may come into play.
The Castle Doctrine is a precedent of defense present in many states, but not all. This doctrine "designates a person's abode or any legally occupied place – e.g., a vehicle or domicile, as a place in which that person has protections and immunities permitting him or her, in certain circumstances, to use force (up to and including deadly force) to defend him or herself against an intruder, free from legal prosecution for the consequences of the force used." * (Wikipedia)
In some states, you will also need to research the gun owner's, "Duty To Retreat." If a state upholds the duty to retreat you must, " attempt to avoid violence if one can reasonably do so." The Castle doctrine negates the duty to retreat when an individual is assaulted in a place where that individual has a right to be, such as within one's own home.
Finally, RVers must be familiar with the term, "Justifiable Use Of Deadly Force."
This excerpt is from the Florida legislation on Justifiable Use Of Force 776.012 - 2 "A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. A person who uses or threatens to use deadly force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground if the person using or threatening to use the deadly force is not engaged in a criminal activity and is in a place where he or she has a right to be."
In other words, if you plan to protect your home on wheels with the use of a firearm, you must be clear on the laws of the state you are camped in. Be sure that your weapon of choice also conforms to the requirements of the state, county and local municipality.
Always Practice Gun Safety.
In the wrong hands, guns can be incredibly dangerous, so becoming trained in how to properly use and store them is of the utmost importance anytime you carry a weapon, especially in a small space like an RV. No matter where you are, there are plenty of gun safety courses to teach you how to use your weapon.
Gun Safety Courses
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has gun safety courses located throughout the U.S. that are easy to find and reasonably priced. You can find classes for pistols, rifles, and shotguns, as well as classes geared toward safety and self-defense. There are also classes specifically for women and youth.
In these and other gun safety courses, you will learn about your weapon, including the basics of shooting, how to load and unload your weapon, how to clean and care for it, as well as marksman training. These courses are meant not only to familiarize you with your weapon and to keep you and your fellow travelers safe, but to help you feel comfortable with your weapon.
Always Be Aware of Your Surroundings.
Be vigilant when choosing a place to stay. If you’re in a secure campground, you should have no real problems. If you stay in a parking lot or boondocking area, however, you should be careful. Scout out the region and if there’s something that just doesn’t seem right, don’t stay there. That's the great part about owning an RV. You can always turn the key and move on.
Always Take Precautions.
In addition to owning a weapon, an RV owner should make safety a high priority. Here are a few essential steps to securing your home on wheels:
Change The Locks. Believe it or not, many rigs have the same locks accessible with a master key. Secure your home by changing to custom locks for both your door and your basement storage.
Use A Safe. Place your valuables in a safe away from prying eyes.
Learn Self Defense. Take a class on self-defense and know what to do in an emergency. In a case where you are unable to access your weapon, self-defense could save a life.
Add Surveillance. From dash cams to wi-fi door bells, there are tons of technology based surveillance systems for your RV.
Meet The Neighbors. Saying hi to the neighbors helps to form an immediate bond. If you plan to be away from your rig, ask them to keep their eye on it, and offer to do the same for them.
Keep The Lights On. Leave a light on even when you are away from your RV. A recreational vehicle with a light, tv, or radio on is less likely to appear empty to a prowler.
If you decide to carry a firearm, the following websites will help you research gun laws.
NRAILA.org - This website provides up to date gun laws from state to state. It also features a variety of informative articles pertinent to gun owners.
Each state's Attorney General or Department of Justice website has a section on the states gun laws. Look for the link that says Firearms.
In the end, protecting your home and family is what matters most. If your home is on wheels, take the time to learn about the firearm laws wherever you roam. You'll be glad you did.