It’s understandable if you’re a bit envious of a fellow gun owner who lives in a rural area where he or she can shoot a gun on his or her property (with an appropriate backstop) or travel to a range with ease. It’s a lot more challenging to find and get to a range if you live in an anti-gun big city — especially if you have to rely on public transportation. If you reside in an urban setting, you must take care to get to the range safely and lawfully. As a city-dwelling armed American, you need to maintain your skills, navigate the laws while getting your firearm and ammo to the range, and explore alternatives for training at home.
Private Transportation With a Firearm
If you have your own private transportation and you’re lawful to carry in your state, you shouldn’t have any issue with taking your handgun to the range. However, a long gun may have its own special procedures for transportation. Typically (but not in all jurisdictions), if your firearm is unloaded and in a case, you should be lawful to transport it in your vehicle. Be aware that some jurisdictions require not only that your firearm be unloaded and in a case but also that your ammunition be separate from the firearm.
The absolute safest way to lawfully transport a firearm and ammunition is for the firearm to be unloaded and in an inoperable condition. That’s difficult with a revolver. But breaking down a semi-automatic pistol into a non-functioning state (such as removing its slide) should meet the expectations of any restrictive legislation you might encounter.
Even after you’ve rendered the firearm inoperative, you may also need to have the firearm as far from the driving compartment as possible. This is pretty simple to accomplish in most automobiles but might be more difficult in a pickup truck, van or motorcycle. Besides, I’d suggest that in such a vehicle, you not only have the disabled firearm farthest from the driver but also have it in a locked case. (Thoroughly check your compliance with local and state legislation.)
Our goal here, in the event you’re charged with a transportation violation, is that you are able to demonstrate to a judge or jury that you took every reasonable effort (also known as “due diligence”) to comply with any restrictive laws.
Can You Take a Gun on Public Transportation?
Things can get really tricky when it comes to firearms and public transportation. (For a detailed explanation on carrying while using public transportation, see “Fare Enough: Concealed Carry on Public Transportation,” November/ December 2022, Pages 52 to 53*.) But we’ll reiterate some of the basics here.
Most of us think of public transportation as buses and trains operated by a city. However, in certain jurisdictions, such as Illinois, public transportation is defined as any mode of transportation fully or partially funded by public funds.
In Chicago, in addition to bus and train services, there are Lyft and Uber bicycles and scooters that have partial funding from the public. So, riding a bicycle or electric scooter is considered public transportation, and this means that you can’t transport a firearm while you’re riding one of these.
Further, Lyft and Uber motorized vehicles in Illinois are also considered public transportation, even though the vehicles are privately owned and driven by non-government employees. If you feel this is silly, I’m in complete agreement. If you’re as outraged as I am, I suggest you engage your local elected representatives and explain to them that such restrictive laws make it more difficult for responsibly armed citizens to defend themselves and make training and getting to training environments considerably more difficult. Explain to them the reality that criminals will not stop transporting their firearms by any means necessary, and indicate to the naive legislators that by nature, it’s the criminals’ actual duty to disobey laws.
Don’t Advertise Your Firearms
Concealed carry means that you’ve made a conscious decision to make your firearm invisible to the general public, and the same should apply to your range bag. Apologies to the manufacturers of such bags as well as to those of you who have invested in a really cool, attractive and well-organized range bag. My friends and I have taken to using bags that don’t scream out, “I’m a gun case.” While tool bags, designer bags and musical-instrument bags might still be attractive to predators, at least they don’t scream “firearms.” That tactical military bag can make you a target.
The USCCA and other manufacturers produce some pretty cool backpacks and other bags that may pass the “Chip Test” for stealth. Of course, I do still own many bags that look tactical. But I use one of those when I’m able to place my firearm in a private vehicle and am headed directly to a range, with no intention of having the gear be in the public view — except from the car to the range and on the range.
Unable to Travel — Tips for At-Home Training
If you absolutely can’t get to a range lawfully, there are a ton of ways to safely sharpen your skills at home. I’m a huge advocate of dry-fire practice. Even on the range, before and during range sessions, I’ll incorporate dry-fire work. With live-fire, you only see what you’re doing wrong when the projectile misses the intended point of impact. Using dry-fire, you can save ammunition and get a lot of feedback.
Safe dry-fire means you’ve triple-checked that your firearm is unloaded and that you’re only pointing the firearm in a safe direction. You don’t want to point a firearm at a wall where a negligent discharge could injure others. Laser ammo and training pistols, such as the SIRT pistol and CoolFire system, are great ways to mitigate the possibility of negligent discharges.
Even when you know the firearm is unloaded, always practice the four universal safety rules. Treat every firearm as if it’s loaded. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target (and you’ve made a conscious decision to press the trigger). And never point a firearm at anything you’re not willing to destroy. Always be aware of your target, target environment and what’s beyond it.
Find more tips to stay legal on the USCCA YouTube page.