When you gotta go, you gotta go. Since you’re reading this USCCA publication, I think we can safely assume that one of your travel-planning factors involves how to safely store your firearm when on the move. Whether you’re headed to work, out to run the daily errands or on an extended trip, one of the details you’ll have to consider is how to secure your firearm during those times when you can’t have it on your person.
Why Have a Safe in Your Vehicle?
There are several reasons you might need to think about gun security in your vehicle. Here are just a few of them:
During your daily travels, you may stop at places where guns are not allowed. We’ll avoid the discussion of whether or not it’s your right to carry when a sign says you can’t. For now, just think of environments where carry is prohibited by federal or state law.
Do you drop off or pick up children from school? Laws change every day, but, in most states, carry isn’t allowed within a school building of any kind. In some places, legislators have recognized that prohibiting carry, even on the property, effectively disallows carry anywhere and have adjusted laws accordingly. For example, in many places, you can leave your gun in the car while parked on school property or at least pass through the drop off and pick up area with a gun in the car.
Your work may be a challenge as well. If your employer doesn’t allow concealed carry in the workplace, you may have to make a choice between leaving your gun at home or storing it in the car while at work. Again, many states have adjusted laws to prevent employers from disallowing gun storage in the car.
Ever take road trips? State laws are a hodge-podge of technicalities about how you can transport a gun. While federal law (at least in theory) allows any legal gun owner to pass through a state while going from one legal location to another, each state gets to decide the details. For example, some states require guns to be locked up and inaccessible to the traveler.
While concealed carry permit holders represent the most law-abiding segment of society, we still might get pulled over by law enforcement from time to time for speeding, some traffic violation or a broken tail light. Have you thought about where your gun is located in the car relative to your registration and insurance card? If they’re stored together in the console or glove box, you and the officer might have an awkward moment when you open that compartment.
How about hotels? Most modern ones have an in-room safe, and that’s certainly better than storing your firearm in a suitcase or on the nightstand should you have to leave it in the room. However, like TSA locks for luggage, you have to assume that many people have access to that safe. Yes, you set an access code yourself, but think about how many times hotel staff has to open a safe when a guest forgot or screwed up the combination. By definition, there’s some sort of “master code” access, and you can’t assume that’s a big secret.
Consequences of Poor Firearms Storage
The penalty of relying on a poor firearms-security strategy when on the go is severe — up to and including death.
First, let’s address the elephant in the room. You should never keep a firearm in your car. To be more specific, I’m talking about long-term storage. If you have to leave your gun in a vehicle temporarily, that’s fine, and we’ll address some tips in a minute. I’m talking about longer-term storage. If you keep your firearm in your car overnight, while you’re in the house asleep, that’s a bad idea. Firearms are stolen from vehicles every day (just ask your local law enforcement officer). And where do crime guns come from? Not stores and gun shows, at least not nearly as often as theft. If you own a gun, it’s your responsibility to secure it at all times.
Ever leave a child in the car for a sec while you pump gas or run inside to pay? That’s also asking for tragedy if there’s a firearm in the car left unsecured.
Another consequence is legal. In some states, when transporting a firearm in your car, it has to be secured. Laws vary, so check the details on yours.
Solutions for Gun Storage on the Go
There are some nifty solutions on the market for car and travel storage, and I highly recommend looking into them if firearms security on the go is a frequent issue for you. However, if you’re budget-constrained or just need an occasional solution, it can be as simple as using the free cable lock that probably came with your handgun. With an unloaded gun, just run the cable through the gun and secure it to the car. Most car seats have steel supports that serve the purpose. Just be sure that it’s out of view or covered so you’re not offering up a theft temptation.
The cable solution is essentially free but carries downsides too. You’ll have to unload your firearm, and that means handling it in the car or hotel room. It’s also possible that you don’t have enough cable or available attachment points to secure the handgun to your car. If these are challenges for you, consider moving up to a portable gun box. There are a million models on the market, but all have similar functions. The idea is to contain a loaded and ready firearm by locking it inside of a steel box. Some models offer slower key or combination access, while others are designed for rapid access using something like a fingerprint scanner. The advantages of a system like this are that you don’t have to load and unload your gun. You can protect against theft by attaching the entire lockbox to your vehicle.
If you’re a frequent traveler or drive for a large part of your day, you might consider a premium solution like the Console Vault. These units are model-specific and designed to be installed in the center console of your car or truck. There are no obvious visible signs of a lockbox, so unless you have other visible valuables in the car, there’s no reason for someone to believe there’s a gun present.
The important thing to remember is that securing your firearm, even when you have to leave it temporarily, is your responsibility. Think about your routine and invest time and money in the appropriate solution to make sure your firearm isn’t accessible to others.
About Tom McHale
Tom McHale is a perpetual student of all things gun and shooting related. He’s particularly passionate about home and self-defense and the rights of all to protect themselves and their loved ones. As part of his ongoing training, Tom has completed dozens of various training programs and is a certified National Rifle Association instructor for pistol and shotgun. He’ll be completing his USCCA Certified Instructor program in the near future.
Tom is a professional writer by trade these days and has published seven books on guns, shooting, reloading, concealed carry and holsters. He’s written two books for the United States Concealed Carry Association: Armed and Ready, Your Comprehensive Blueprint to Concealed Carry Confidence and 30 Days to Concealed Carry Confidence. In between book projects, Tom has published somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,700 articles for about a dozen gun and shooting publications. If he’s not writing, you can probably find him on the range.