Firearms on the Open Road: RV Travel and Camping Safety

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Honest admission: I have never been camping.

I love the outdoors and really enjoy and appreciate nature. But with a host of allergies and other random considerations, for me, camping has just never been something that’s made it onto my calendar. With my reputation for odd circumstances, sun poisoning and weird injuries, I’m not sure if it ever will. “Glamping,” on the other hand, may have a chance!

Glamping

This outdoor activity involves accommodations and facilities that are a bit more “luxurious” than those associated with traditional camping. So, if I can find some solace and solitude in the woods, mountains and “wild places” while enjoying some of the comforts of home (e.g. a functioning restroom and some escape from biting and stinging bugs), then you definitely have my attention!

I have always been intrigued by the idea of driving off in an RV for a traveling/camping adventure. But as a responsibly armed American, there’s a bit more to RV planning and preparation than simply checking off whether a campground or state park has fire pits, grills or a well-stocked fishing area. And that got me thinking: How does one carry/store firearms in an RV? What do campers do when they cross state lines? And what do they do in state/national parks?

Travel Thoughts

With a little research, I received a few responses to my inquiries. Darryl Glass, a Bama Carry member, commented about his strategies for planning and carrying out a road trip:

“Spending most of my adult life in the military and changing duty stations often, I have made the trip from East Coast to West Coast, to the Midwest, the Florida Keys and many places in between,” Glass said. “I most always drove a truck with a trailer attached, which carried my firearms, tools and motorcycle. I often stayed in hotels and motels, and a few times I paired up with a friend who was driving an RV (where we would both reside for the night).

“Every trip was like planning a mission because we had to consider every state’s reciprocity, transportation laws for firearms and … laws defining our modes of transportation as a ‘vehicle’ or a ‘habitation’ in the case of a recreational vehicle or travel trailer. Even when stopping for the night and staying in a hotel, we had to consider the hotel policies and whether or not state law considered a hotel room ‘my home’ for the night.

“Bottom line: It all depends on state laws and rules or regulations at a hotel, campground/RV park, and state or national park.”

RV Considerations

Clearly, because of the risks of unknown territory and/or unplanned encounters, RVers often carry defensive weapons such as firearms, Tasers and even chemical sprays. But the biggest question facing most who wish to equip themselves for such reasons is: “What are my legal rights regarding weapons possession and concealment?”

Thankfully, transporting firearms across state lines in an RV is pretty similar to using any other vehicle. The Gun Control Act of 1968 says that anyone, with some exceptions, can carry a firearm across state lines (even without a permit). The key is that the gun needs to remain unloaded and stored where you (or someone else) cannot easily reach it. This means your firearms must be stored in a locked compartment (separate from ammunition) in the back area of your RV — not in a center console or glove box. Check for reciprocity, however, if you are licensed to carry a concealed weapon; you may be able to carry your firearm within reach.

Motorhome Magazine provides some additional tips for RVers to protect themselves … and to avoid running afoul of the law. The first — and possibly best — option, since there’s a huge amount of variance in gun laws, is to get out your reciprocity map and check with state, city and/or county laws to see the requirements or restrictions on the carrying, storage and concealment of firearms and other defense tools. You may also want to keep a resource like the Traveler’s Guide for the Firearm Laws of the Fifty States with you in case of unexpected detours or spur-of-the-moment side trips. And don’t forget to check the campground or park to see if it has any specific rules. Motorhome Magazine also noted that it’s important to keep all permits and paperwork safe but still handy. It says, “Do not voluntarily consent to a search of your person, RV or motor vehicle unless you are fully prepared to answer for whatever is found. If an officer requests permission, it is well within your legal rights to respectfully say no.”