It was 3 AM and we were deep in the 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.
I wished I had a gun.
Think I’m paranoid? Maybe. That’s what decades of being an investigative reporter does for 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 whwn I switched to the technology beat years ago, I let my concealed carry permit expired.
But that tense early morning in the Michigan woods this past summer got me thinking about weapons 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 summer cottages, 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.
The whole subject of carrying a gun in an RV is a hot topic among RVers. Some of the experts I talked to say think that well over half of them do. In Canada, it’s different. Canada has very strict gun laws and few people even own, let alone carry, handguns.
On my http://facebook.com/roadtreking page, I posed the issue to the 1,800 folks who “like” our page there and got some opinions on both sides.
Said a 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."
But the fact is, in the U.S. bringing a handgun in an RV for protection is a lot more common than most people think. Most 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 carry permit, some don’t. As armed RVers travel from state to state, you can be sure, though, 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. For Big Type A motorhomes and fifth wheels, a shotgun may be the best choice. For 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.
The website handgunlaw.us offers an excellent guide to the various laws. Same with the usacarry.com site. Perhaps the best resourse is put out by the National Rifle Association, the Traveler’s Guide to the Firearm Laws of the Fifty States.
If guns are not your thing, there are other ways to protect yourself.
Many RVers say a big, or at least a mean-sounding dog is a good deterrent. My Tai obviously isn’t the watchdog type, but others have had more success. One woman RVer 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. Others say the only self defense item they have is a can of bear spray or wasp spray.
Carrying guns in RVs is a very controversial subject. But my research has convinced me it is done a lot, especially by fulltimers and those who like to boondock.