It’s certainly one of the most controversial topics there is among RVers.
I’m talking about guns and carrying them in your RV.
I get reader questions on this all the time. In fact, it is so frequently asked, it's time I address in here in the blog.
On the roads and in the campgrounds, chances are you won’t have to look too far to find an RVer who is has a firearm packed away somewhere. Because of varying gun laws between states and very stiff fines and penalties for violating them, getting the owners to talk on the record about challenging.
I’ve wanted to write about this issue for some time. That’s the reporter in me, I guess. But it started in a campground in South Dakota a couple of summers ago when we were just starting out as RVers. It was sunset, and you know how motorhome owners are at that time of the day. I was visiting with a neighbor who was in a Type A. He told me how he had been traveling for many years. I shared how I was just beginning.
Then he asked the question:
“What are you carrying for protection,” he asked.
Truthfully, the subject hadn’t ever come up before and I answered with something like, “Huh?”
He went on to tell me how he never traveled without a handgun. “You are very vulnerable out here,” he said, gesturing to a packed campground that seemed pretty darn safe to me.
I asked him about a permit. “I got one from my home state,” he said. “But with every state so different, I just keep it out of sight. You know, don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Except he was telling me.
And he had some advice. “Pray you’ll never need to use it, but get a gun, son.”
The next time the idea of carrying a gun in my motorhome came up it was 3 AM and we were deep in the Michigan woods, camped on a friend’s 200 acres of fenced and posted private property off an obscure fire trail more than two miles from the nearest paved road.
I jolted awake. I heard a vehicle with a slightly knocking engine, bumping and scraping on the underbrush of the trail. Then I saw its headlights, slowly making its way down the trail towards us.
Jennifer was still asleep. So was my Norweigian Elkhound, Tai. Fine watchdog he was.
There was no reason for the other vehicle to be out there. In fact, whoever was in that vehicle was breaking the law as the property was clearly marked with “No Trespassing” signs.
What do I do? We were extremely vulnerable out there. My cell phone coverage was iffy, at best. There was only one way out, and whoever was in that vehicle was blocking it.
I wished I had a gun.
Think I’m paranoid? Maybe. That’s what decades of being an investigative reporter does to you. For many years, I carried a handgun pretty much everywhere I went. I worked the drug beat in the city of Detroit for many years. Twice, having a gun kept bad guys from getting to me.
But that tense early morning in the Michigan woods this past fall caused me to remember my South Dakota neighbor from months before and got me again thinking about firearms and RVing. As that incident turned out, the vehicle never made it to our spot. It eventually turned around and left. But burglars who break into RVs, meth addicts, marijuana growers and all sorts of other unsavory characters are just as prevalent in rural areas of the U.S. as are the bad guys who endanger urban areas.
Since that scary night in the woods, I’ve asked a other motorhome owners if they travel with a firearm. Some are coy and don’t answer. Some are vehemently opposed to it. Others are very open about it.
But the fact is, in the U.S. bringing a handgun for protection in an RV is pretty common. Many RVers don’t talk about it because the legality of doing so is dependent on where you are. Some states allow it, some recognize another state’s permit, some don’t.
In Canada, it’s different. Canada has very strict gun laws and few people even own, let alone carry, handguns.
I posed the question to readers of my Roadtreking Facebook Page some time back. Here’s a fair sampling of responses I received:
Said a woman named Kiki: “I carry a firearm in my camper, since I am a woman who camps in remote areas alone. I have a license to carry, but only 29 states reciprocate my license. I try to avoid driving through states where legal issues could occur, but if I can’t, then I ship my gun ahead to a UPS office.”
A reader named David wrote: “Used to have a Class A and missed a turn in Greensboro, NC and had to turn around in a gasoline/fast shop station. Before I could get out of there I was stopped twice by people wanting money. Because it was a Class A they thought I had money. Too bad, because of the Class A I didn’t have any money!! I will not let my wife be harmed because of a bunch of bleeding hearts!! And that’s all I have to say!!!!!”
Jude, a Canadian, offered: “I’ve never been pro firearm and 40 years of living in Canada has reinforced that. However, I lived alone very far out in the country at one point where cougars and bears roam and I must admit I really understood why country folk at least want a shotgun handy. My RV is currently parked for the winter but if I do extensive traveling alone I will probably get a big dog. Legal in all states and Canada and keeps your feet warm at night to boot.”
Like I said, it’s a hot topic.
And consider this: As handgun carrying RVers travel from state to state, you can be sure that at some point in their journeys they are violating some state’s gun laws.
Shotguns and rifles are a different matter in most states and usually acceptable. In fact, for Big Type A motorhomes and fifth wheels, experts say a shotgun may be the best choice if the owner has determined to bring a firearm along. In Type Bs, there’s often not enough storage room for a long gun.
Is bringing a gun along a good idea? A lot of RVers believe it is better to have a firearm and not need it than to need a firearm and not have one. A lot of others think it’s not necessary or too dangerous.
If you’re wrestling with the issue, or if you do carry a weapon in your motorhome, you need to be very aware of the law.
The website handgunlaws.us offers an excellent guide to the various laws. Same with the usacarry.com site. Perhaps the best resource is put out by the National Rifle Association in a book called the Traveler’s Guide to the Firearm Laws of the Fifty States. It’s available through Amazon.
And – this is very important – please realize that guns are not the only way – or even the best way – to protect yourself.
Many motorhome owners say a big, or at least a mean-sounding dog is a good deterrent, as suggested by our Canadian reader above.
One solo-traveling woman motorhome owner I know has a tape recorder she brings along that has a recording of a mean dog barking.
If she hears someone outside her RV at night, she hits play and turns up the volume. She also puts two pair of boots – one of them obviously a man’s – outside on the matt leading to the motorhome so bad guys won’t know she’s all alone.
Others say the only self defense item they have is a can of bear spray or wasp spray.
Like I said, this is a controversial subject.
And I can only add this: If you do decide to bring a firearm with you, please, do not do so unless you have received training and follow all the safety procedures recommended by the experts.
There are many other solutions and ways to be secure besides carrying a firearm.