We live in one of the most magnificent countries on Earth. We have wild mountains to climb and deserts, sugar sand beaches, world-class museums—all within driving distance of thousands of miles where one can just get lost in the sweet, magnificent heartland.
I want to show my kids some of their heritage that isn’t in our backyard. I want them to experience something new, appreciate America for its richness…and yes, its diversity. And somehow I want them to see and understand just how lucky they are to live here.
So I’m loading the SUV with luggage and gear. It’s carefully packed, though I know this will only last for one or two stops. The kids are comfortably seated for this vacation—which means, yes, the cell phone for the older teen and a batch of little electronic games for the younger one—and the wife is beside me with a romance novel. The GPS is ready and Siri will answer questions about driving directions and campgrounds. Nobody gets carsick; the wife likes to read and sleep on a long drive; the kids aren’t whining (yet). What could possibly go wrong?
Then, as I get in, the wife gives me a kiss on the cheek and asks, “Are you taking your gun? Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
Oh, crap. I feel the crease and bulge in the hip where the pistol rests in its inside-the-belt holster. Should I put it in the little hatch between our seats where I can easily access it, in the door slot (which was perhaps originally designed for fold-out maps and AAA travel planners), or in the glove compartment where it will be more difficult to reach in an emergency? And then there’s the matter of the second magazine…
We’re planning to cross 11 states on this driving expedition and every state has a little different regulatory idea and system; even some municipalities have gotten into that game. Sure, our state has a reciprocity agreement with a number of other states, but not with all of them and amid the hustle of double-checking the air mattresses, finding a sitter for the dog, having the SUV serviced, and all of the thousand-and-one things necessary before a family trip I just haven’t had time—okay, haven’t taken the time—to study the laws for carry across state lines. It’s a mistake. Now, with everyone ready and watching, I have to make a decision. Do I leave the pistol in the gun safe at home or do I risk it and take it with us?
Risk is the operative word. (My carelessness or thoughtlessness on this matter might be another word.) If I leave the pistol at home and am caught in some road rage situation or a prowler barges into our campsite at night, I could regret not carrying protection for the rest of my life.
If I decide to go ahead and carry my licensed firearm, I could risk a legal problem in one of those 11 states. Does the glove compartment need to be locked with the gun inside? Does the gun need to be empty? What if some over-zealous state trooper attempting to fulfill his or her quota of tickets for the week pulls us over for driving five mph over the speed limit or failing to use a turn signal on an otherwise empty stretch of Interstate Highway? He will check the in-car computer database and discover that I have a carry license and ask if there is a gun in the car, at which point I have another choice. It becomes a slippery slope, especially if the family hasn’t discussed the issue in advance.
On the other hand, there is a question of trying to play catch-up on the road. Stopping at a library to use the free Internet to check state rules will make everyone in the car—including me, I suppose—bitchy, irritable. And going into a coffee-shop gun-free-zone to check cross-state-line carry regulations seems ridiculous.
If you are a U.S. Concealed Carry Association member—heck, even if you are not, the download is free—you can check out “Concealed Carry Map: Know Your State’s Rights” (www.usconcealedcarry.com—just scroll down the page to find it), which presents a breakdown by state of your rights and responsibilities. If it seems that I am shilling for the Association, I am, because this is a ready and up-to-date resource that you will need on this year’s family vacation. It’s a resource that you can easily and quickly read and understand, with guidelines that you can adapt to practically every situation you may encounter.