OB Approved Camping with Firearms

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Narbob

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Let me start by saying this is not a pro or anti- gun article. This is about responsibility, safety and a little about the law. As a person who mostly does solo camping in remote areas, I feel comfortable with a gun on or near me to deal with any predators whether they are animal or human. With over 30 years of training and handling various firearms, my preference will always be to diffuse a situation and find the quickest exit. This being said, a firearm may or may not be something you're comfortable with.

Being in California, I can only speak to our state laws. Since Overland Bound crosses many borders, I urge anyone interested in carrying a weapon to check their local and state laws; it’s only a Google away.

When transporting a concealable firearm [handgun] in a vehicle it MUST be kept unloaded in a locked container or vehicle trunk. This means stuffed between the seats, glove box or console is not legal. Anyone with a permit to carry a concealed weapon [CCW] is exempt. Long nonconcealable firearms such as unloaded shotguns and rifles are also exempt. Firearms ARE allowed on BLM land as well as most national parks. As of 2010 guns ARE allowed in all but 20 of the 392 national parks. Yellowstone, Grand Canyon Yosemite are part of the park system that allows firearms. Where they are NOT allowed is the visitor centers and the ranger stations. This is because firearms are not allowed in federal buildings. Also whether it's national forest or parks they mostly fall back on local state laws. However, National Forest land requires firearms be unloaded in a case. There are many exemptions regarding hunting season and too many to list here.

Every firearm should be thought of as a tool and not a toy. If you’re going to take on the responsibility of carrying a firearm there are many things to consider such as your familiarity and proficiency with the particular weapon you carry. If you have any doubts, you should visit one of the many public or private shooting ranges as well as gun stores for advice, many offer firearm safety courses.

Safety is the number one priority without question. Always know the condition of your firearm, is it loaded? [Always assume it is] Is the safety on or off? And most importantly, who’s around you? Always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot and keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. If target practicing, know your background. If you’re in a campground or a location with other people and especially kids, keep you firearms locked away and secured. And of course never mix alcohol or drugs with firearms. This includes prescription medication that might alter you mental or physical well-being.

One non-lethal alternative that I highly recommend is pepper spray. This can legally be carried in all 50 states and I can say from experience, it’s very effective. One or two short bursts to the face of any animal or human and they will be at their knees and incapacitated. I can verify this by experience too.

Although I could go on, I’ll close this with know the laws of the location you’re in or traveling to and there’s no substitute for common sense.
 
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jdunk

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Good article, though I believe you have the restrictions on National Parks and Forests swapped.

National Parks are typically a no-no for loaded weapons, whereas I find too many messes left behind by irresponsible shooters in National Forests.
 

Narbob

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Good article, though I believe you have the restrictions on National Parks and Forests swapped.

National Parks are typically a no-no for loaded weapons, whereas I find too many messes left behind by irresponsible shooters in National Forests.
Thanks for reading. I re-checked my information and it is correct. I did add more information for clarification.
 
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Corrie

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Great read, @Narbob! This is a conversation Michael and I have had off and on for years. I had a shooting lesson about 5 years ago, and I'm way overdue for a refresher course with an emphasis on safety. Since we have kiddos with us, the storage conversation is a biggie.

Thanks for the write up and share! :smiley:
 

Narbob

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Great read, @Narbob! This is a conversation Michael and I have had off and on for years. I had a shooting lesson about 5 years ago, and I'm way overdue for a refresher course with an emphasis on safety. Since we have kiddos with us, the storage conversation is a biggie.

Thanks for the write up and share! :smiley:
@Corrie Thank you!
 

TreXTerra

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If you are going to be traveling across state lines, I highly recommend the app "Legal Heat" - which updates regularly as laws change and explains in plain-text and with the legal language where you can and cannot carry a gun and what restrictions there are (such as on magazine size). It also covers CFP reciprocity and how to transport your weapon in each state.
 

Traveler I

Personally if I am going to a different state the first thing I do is call the state police and just ask. I would rather have answers from the source than from a book, website etc... that may or may not be completely correct. They will tell you weather or not it is legal to carry where ever you plan on going and camping as well.
 

TreXTerra

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In my experience, the police are not a good resource of what is or is not legal. I use the app because it is put together by lawyers who specialize in firearms laws and the app alerts you to updates.

Before I go, I hit the force update button for all states and it downloads everything. You can use it without a cell connection.

Considering how many times I see cops threaten arrest for things that are not crimes, I don't trust them for legal advice. Their job is to gather evidence for a conviction, not to help you. Hell, I even had one who heard second-hand that I had my permit, he sent his wife to try to intimidate my mom into having me not carry - not because I broke any law, just because he personally doesn't like anyone else to be armed. I know many people don't like firearms, I understand that and am not trying to make others uncomfortable. Police don't have a good track record for legal advice, you really need a lawyer for that.
 
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Wolvee

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I have never been told the right answers by calling the state police in regards to gun laws. Not one single time. lol I travel all around the country with my firearms for R&R and training. I wouldn't say it's a conspiracy by other LEO's but Police are not experts in every law and just because they carry a gun does not make them "gun people." A lot of times they'll air on the side of caution in answering your questions or avoid the right answer for fear of being responsible legally. LEO's are paid to protect you and trained not to trust you. It's the way it works for their safety and for their communities they're charged with cleaning up after. Also, I've known several LEO's over the years that the only time they've ever shot or cleaned their guns is during mandatory training and qualification.

There are several sites that keep up to date on carry and reciprocity. Seek independent sites that are specifically geared towards the laws you're in question of.
 

krzyaz

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Interesting perspectives. I should point out that not all states have the same restrictions and not all Law Enforcement Officers are created equal.

1. Always treat a firearm as though it is loaded.
2. Never point a gun at something you are not willing to destroy.
3. Always be sure of your target and what is behind it.
4. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on your target.

There are only four rules and you can usually break one of them without anything too terrible happening. Break the wrong two and you could be in a world of hurt.

I'm fortunate that I live in Arizona. We are a constitutional carry state which basically means we can carry open or concealed with or without a permit nor do we have registration requirements. There are some restrictions regarding alcohol, schools, etc. That said, Arizona does have a Concealed Carry Weapon permit (CCW). The only reasons for a CCW in AZ are to speed up the purchasing process (no background check) and reciprocity with other states. The CCW course teaches mostly laws and scenarios related to using a firearm in self defense or the defense of others. Even if you have no intention of carrying concealed, the information you receive will be invaluable in the event a situation comes up. Even if you only carry occasionally, I recommend taking a CCW course so you know when it is appropriate to use a firearm in self defense. If you own a handgun, rifle, shotgun, etc. you really should take at least a full day course to become proficient in its use. I cannot stress enough how important training is.

With regard to camping and firearms. I always have at least a loaded handgun, always with a round in the chamber and always in a good quality holster (on my person) - not a $9 uncle mikes nylon special. Depending on my destination, I will often bring an AR-15. I have yet to use either in self defense or the defense of others and hope I never do. The largest ever wild animal to venture near my camp was a racoon. Make no mistake, when you are away from cities, there are wild animals and you will become part of the food chain if predators are given the opportunity.

Those of you going to Overland Expo West should know that there are Black Bears in the immediate area (within 2 miles) and sightings are not that unusual. Remember, sleeping bags are the soft tacos of the bear world.
 

mmnorthdirections

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I love this "sleeping bags are the soft tacos of the bear world"
Just a note for wild animal protection. First, If you see them guaranteed they saw you first, and should not be any issue at distance just keep your eye on them. Second, If in your immediate area such as a campsite a firearm will not help unless you have been trained and practice extensively in a stressed induced drill type field. Third, best defense for critters large and small is a non lethal pepper or bear spray if in close like a camp or trail.
Just like Paul would say, "Observe and Report"
 

TreXTerra

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There are other dangers in the woods, often the kind that walks upright on two legs. On a recent trip one guy told a story of going out to visit a ghost town in Nevada near California only to stumble into a meth cooking operation that had been set up in one of the old structures. Out here in Utah there was a crazy guy living out in the mountains near the Great Salt Lake who thought everything he could see belonged to him. At first law enforcement didn't believe people when they said he started shooting at them, but eventually they had to go out there with SWAT and arrest him.

I've personally had some shady people roll right up to my camp and start walking around, between vehicles, and right through the middle of camp. No reason for it at all except to try to make us uncomfortable - we were on public lands and perfectly legal to camp there so I don't know what their deal was. I had asked them several times to not come through the camp, and even strung our hammocks and tarps between vehicles to dissuade them from tromping around. Finally I decided I "needed something from the car" and the rifle "happened" to be on top and needed to be moved - so I leaned it up against the back bumper next to me. And just like that the invasive party decided it was time to move on.

Yes, bear spray can be effective. It is also short-range when compared to a rifle or pistol, can't be reloaded, can be blown back at the person using it, and isn't quite as good against bipedal threats. Fortunately, it isn't a case of one or the other.
 

Ryan_Blaire

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As a CCW holder, I am locked and loaded every day. That being said, I also live in the great state of Nevada which is fairly laid back on carrying laws. We are an "open Carry" state. I can go to a gun store, buy a pistol, wait while they make a phone call for the background check and once cleared, load it, holster it and walk out the door. Like other states, once you have a CCW in Nevada, you can bypass the phone call and be on your way. As far as transporting, "concealed" refers only to your person. In a vehicle, it is perfectly legal to have a gun (pistol) in the center console, glove box or under the seat without a CCW. However, for hunting purposes, rifles and shotguns cannot be loaded when transporting. I typically open carry when off-road and/or camping simply because it's easier and my daily carry pistol is not a compact model. There have been a few situations out in BFE where I encountered some strange travelers and I think the pistol on my hip defused the situation without saying anything.
 

Truckerbizz

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As a CCW holder, I am locked and loaded every day. That being said, I also live in the great state of Nevada which is fairly laid back on carrying laws. We are an "open Carry" state. I can go to a gun store, buy a pistol, wait while they make a phone call for the background check and once cleared, load it, holster it and walk out the door. Like other states, once you have a CCW in Nevada, you can bypass the phone call and be on your way. .
I live in WA and have my CCW (I went on my 21st birthday to get it) and am moving to Nevada in a year or so and I am SO glad I can use my WA license in NV.
 

Lassen

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Let me start by saying this is not a pro or anti- gun article. This is about responsibility, safety and a little about the law. As a person who mostly does solo camping in remote areas, I feel comfortable with a gun on or near me to deal with any predators whether they are animal or human. With over 30 years of training and handling various firearms, my preference will always be to diffuse a situation and find the quickest exit. This being said, a firearm may or may not be something you're comfortable with.

Being in California, I can only speak to our state laws. Since Overland Bound crosses many borders, I urge anyone interested in carrying a weapon to check their local and state laws; it’s only a Google away.

When transporting a concealable firearm [handgun] in a vehicle it MUST be kept unloaded in a locked container or vehicle trunk. This means stuffed between the seats, glove box or console is not legal. Anyone with a permit to carry a concealed weapon [CCW] is exempt. Long nonconcealable firearms such as unloaded shotguns and rifles are also exempt. Firearms ARE allowed on BLM land as well as most national parks. As of 2010 guns ARE allowed in all but 20 of the 392 national parks. Yellowstone, Grand Canyon Yosemite are part of the park system that allows firearms. Where they are NOT allowed is the visitor centers and the ranger stations. This is because firearms are not allowed in federal buildings. Also whether it's national forest or parks they mostly fall back on local state laws. However, National Forest land requires firearms be unloaded in a case. There are many exemptions regarding hunting season and too many to list here.

Every firearm should be thought of as a tool and not a toy. If you’re going to take on the responsibility of carrying a firearm there are many things to consider such as your familiarity and proficiency with the particular weapon you carry. If you have any doubts, you should visit one of the many public or private shooting ranges as well as gun stores for advice, many offer firearm safety courses.

Safety is the number one priority without question. Always know the condition of your firearm, is it loaded? [Always assume it is] Is the safety on or off? And most importantly, who’s around you? Always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot and keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. If target practicing, know your background. If you’re in a campground or a location with other people and especially kids, keep you firearms locked away and secured. And of course never mix alcohol or drugs with firearms. This includes prescription medication that might alter you mental or physical well-being.

One non-lethal alternative that I highly recommend is pepper spray. This can legally be carried in all 50 states and I can say from experience, it’s very effective. One or two short bursts to the face of any animal or human and they will be at their knees and incapacitated. I can verify this by experience too.

Although I could go on, I’ll close this with know the laws of the location you’re in or traveling to and there’s no substitute for common sense.
Great article! One thing I would like to see, however, is if you could put links to sources such as DOJ, CA AG, etc. That would be helpful. Reason I say that is some of what I heard from a deputy sheriff up in Nor Cal contradicts some of what is stated above. But, what others have said, it's possible the deputy I spoke to may not be completely familiar with all of it. For example, I was informed that it is legal to open carry in National Forest (Dept of Ag) but carry and even possessing a firearm - even locked, unloaded in your car - was absolutely forbidden in National Parks (Dept. of Interior).