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Truckers and Guns

Is it legal for CDL drivers to have a loaded gun in a commercial truck?”  Short answer is, yes as long as you have the required Permit for the state that you are in.  

Now to dissect this misconception of it not being legal.  If you have been in a truck stop and listened to the chatter from drivers you will hear some off the wall things.  Drivers have too much time to think about things. I know this first hand as I was an OTR Driver for 10 years. This rumor was more than likely started by the trucking companies.  There is more risk to them from you shooting someone in self-defense than you being murdered on the road. So as they hire drivers they tell them that it is against the law and their policies.  It might be against their policies but there is no law saying that it is illegal to carry in a commercial vehicle. Go ahead and look in your little FMCSA green book. (Here’s a link to the FMCSA website and you can search the regulations yourself http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations )    So if they (FMCSA) have not made a regulation against it and the federal government says that we may transport a gun for legal purposes across state lines, as long as we are not prohibited from owning guns.  Then it is perfectly legal.

Driving a truck across the county is a tough job, on a daily basis you deal with traffic, the DOT and State Police, brokers, adverse weather and the crime that is usually around the truck stops.  If you have spent time on the road you will have seen a lot of crime (road rage, drug dealers, muggings, prostitution and straight up violence). Truck stops are not usually located in the nicest parts of town, they are placed near highways in industrial or lower income residential areas.  There is a real need to protect yourself in these environments. 

So now that we know that it is perfectly legal and there is a need to carry, let’s get into what it takes to carry a gun in your truck for self-defense.  The 1st step that you need to do is to get your Permit or License to Carry from you home State. This is easy for most States. While some will make it difficult for you to acquire a permit most just require you to get some form of training and pass a background check. With you resident permit you should be able to carry in more than your home State as States will have either recognition or reciprocity with different States.  To gain more States that you are legal to carry in, you could apply for a Non-Resident permits from Utah or Florida. With Utah you have to take additional training from a UT certified instructor but FL will accept you Resident Permit as their training requirement so there is no need to take another class.

If you are a OTR driver you might go through 10 or more states in a 24 hour period and every state can have slightly different laws regarding carrying a loaded gun in a motor vehicle, it might seem that is a daunting task to keep legal as you drive this great country of ours. But with the great resources available now, you can do it with ease. The most useful resources are listed below. Once you have gotten our permit(s) now it is time to talk about the required equipment .

Gun:  Depending on what States you plan on carrying in you might be subject to magazine capacity limits.  So this must be taken into account when choosing a gun. As of March 2014, Washington, D.C (10). and eight U.S. states have high-capacity magazine restrictions or bans. California (10), Colorado (15), Connecticut (10), Hawaii (10), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (10), New Jersey (15) and New York (71).   Most modern defensive weapons have a capacity of 5 to 20 rounds.  If you plan on traveling through one of the States that restrict the capacity of the magazine you want to make sure that you are not violating local laws.  When I was driving the limits at worse were 10 rds. I looked for a gun that had a 10 round or less magazine. That does not completely rule out the full sized guns that usually accept more than ten, but you would have to make sure that you can buy magazines that are compliant.  Simply downloading the gun to 10 rounds is not always legal, some States require that the magazine cannot hold more than the limit under any condition. I choose the Glock 26 for my truck gun because it came with 10rd magazines but could also use magazines from a Glock 17 (holds 17rds).  I would also keep at least 3 more loaded magazines in my truck to compensate for the smaller capacity magazines.

Safe: If you go through a State that does not recognize your permit you are going to be required to unload you weapon and secure it in the rear most part of your vehicle.  A portable gun safe is the best solution to this. I kept two in my truck, one for the ammo and one for the gun. I secured them in the cubby under my bunk, out of reach and not readily accessible when I was driving.  Once I was out of the restrictive State I would pull over and reload my weapon and put it back into my holster.

Ammunition:  States like New Jersey and some local municipalities like San Francisco have restrictions on the type of ammo that you may possess.  New Jersey has banned hollow points and San Francisco bans the possession of certain brands (Winchester Black Talon and similar) I would try my hardest to never go to those places and if I did get sent on a load to either place I would swap my ammunition for the week to a Full Metal Jacketed round to stay compliant .  Otherwise I would carry whatever hollow point that worked the best in my gun.

Holster:  This is going to depend on how you plan on carrying, inside the waistband, outside the waistband, off-body, ankle and such.  Keeping the gun on you all day as you drive can be a bit uncomfortable. While driving, I would either have my gun in a holster attached to the steering column or in an ankle holster.  The ankle holster works well for this type of situation as your legs are bent and the ankle is closer to your hand and you can access your weapon while seated and buckled into your seat.  The steering column gave me the most comfort and ease of access while driving as it was off body but within reach. When buying a holster to mount to your truck make sure that the orientation is correct.  On the column it had to be opposite of my strong hand, in my case I bought a left handed holster as my right hand is my strong hand. When I was in the bunk the gun would be in a holster mounted to the wall of the sleeper berth so that I had quick access while laying down.  However you plan on carrying in your truck make sure that you never leave it unsecured while outside of your truck. If you are carrying outside of your truck (you should as long as your permit is good in the State you are in) have a holster that is comfortable and concealable if local laws require concealment.  I used an inside the waistband holster made by Comp-Tac. I found it to be the most comfortable and adjustable inside the waistband holster out there.

Information:  Yes, I am putting information as a part of your equipment.  It is imperative that you are aware of local laws. The best up to date resource for this is a website, http://www.handgunlaw.us   that website is updated as the laws change.  I would have it bookmarked in my phone and would review the different States on a regular basis.  To make sure I had this information I would also print each States laws from Handgunlaw.us and put them in a three ringed binder.  Updating that binder every 6 months. There is a couple great books out there that you can buy and keep with you but keep in mind they are not always up to date.  

Less than Lethal Weapons:   It is a good idea to have options other than the gun, some situations might call for force but not deadly force.  This is hard as a driver as there is not a constitutional right to pepper spray, electronic control weapons (Taser or stun guns) or impact weapons.   So each State can either outright ban a particular less than lethal weapon or limit possession of them. If you have a dedicated route and it is legal for you to possess pepper spray that is a good option as you can engage multiple people with it at the same time, word of caution, I would not use in the confines of your cab as you will expose yourself to it also.  I found it very hard as an OTR driver to stay complainant with the normal nonlethal weapons so I improvised. I would keep a tire thumper nearby. Nearly every truck stop sell one of these and the make a great defensive weapon.

Now for the difficulties that you might face in this journey.  Nothing is always easy.

Restricted States: You will come to States that do not recognize you permit or they outright ban carry. The solution to this issue is to simply unload you weapon before the State line and secure it out of reach and reloading it when you enter a State that honors your permit.

Prohibited Locations: Schools, Colleges, Detention Facilities, Federal and State Properties and Military Bases to name a few restrict or ban weapons.  For the most part these places are easy to avoid. But if you have to deliver to a prohibited place you have a problem. I would sometimes have to pick up or deliver to schools and military bases.  If it was a military base I would call ahead and ask if they allow you to check your weapon at the gate. If I knew I was going to a prohibited place before my trip I would leave the gun at home if I could not come up with a plan to be able to get it out of my possession while on prohibited grounds.  Some other things I would do is find a gun shop and see if they could clean my gun for me, tell them that you will be back in a little bit, Have a FFL ship the gun back to my local FFL. I have even talked a truck stop manager in letting me lock my whole safe up in their store safe. This was rare that I would have to go to that extreme but just so you know what you might possibly face.

Company Policies Against It:  Some companies have policies that say you cannot have a weapon in their truck.  Now this is up to you and I am not saying that you should disregard their policies but I value my life more than my job.  If they do not know that you have it in the truck then they can’t possibly hold it against you. The only way they would find out that you have it is if you have to use it in defense of your life.  And at that point I don’t think you are going to care about your job.

Differences of Self-Defense Laws per State:  States have their own laws regarding using deadly force against an attacker.  There is a common thread for all States. Deadly force may only be used when there is an immediate, and unavoidable danger of death or great/grave bodily harm to an innocent person, where no other option exists other than the use of deadly force.  Some States allow you to use force to protect property, some do not. Some States require that you retreat if you can do so safely, some do not. This is where http://www.handgunlaw.us comes in.  You can see in a condensed manner what the requirements are for each State.  

Concealment and Notification Requirements:  Some States are Concealed Carry States, they require you to keep the gun concealed at all times. Some States allow you to carry openly or concealed.  My solution to this problem was to always carry concealed. I like the element of surprise and did not want to be targeted just because of the gun on my side.  Another issue you will run into is the requirement to notify law enforcement that you have a weapon on you. Some States require that you tell law enforcement right away that you have a gun on you or in your possession.  While others do not have that requirement. Easy solution to this is to always notify. The reason I would notify is that I do not want a gun pointed at me, even if it is law enforcement. If I didn’t tell them and they see it, their first reaction could be to pull their gun and point it at me until they realized I was not a threat to them.  That is usually after they have you on the ground in handcuffs. My experience with this is pretty good. When pulled over I would tell the officer that I have a permit and that I have a firearm on me, I would then ask them what they would like me to do. Give them control of the situation. 99% of the time they would just tell me not to go for mine and they won’t go for theirs.  Some have had me step out of the truck with my hands in the air and then they secured it while they conducted the stop.

Misinformation:  Not only are truck drivers misinformed on the legalities of carrying in a commercial vehicle sometimes you will find that law enforcement is wrong on the subject.  It is not really their fault. The laws for any given State can fill up millions of pages and it would be hard for anyone to remember them all. I have had an occasional DOT officer tell me that it was illegal for me to have the gun in my truck, I stayed polite and told them that I am willing to take ticket or go to jail if they can provide proof of it being illegal.  They would go back to their car and try to find the regulation or statue against it maybe even call their supervisors only to come back and say that I was right. Most thanked me for being polite and non-combative about it and sent me on my way.

 

Summary

It is legal to carry in a commercial vehicle.  But with carrying a weapon for self-defense you must stay on top of the laws in the places that you travel, these laws can change and it is upon you to know the laws. With the mentioned resources there is really no reason not to be informed.  Drivers face all kinds of threats, they are targeted because criminals are opportunist. And a dark truck stop, loading dock or rest area give them an almost perfect opportunity as help is usually far away, it’s dark or secluded area, most drivers are unarmed and it’s a very noisy environment.  Self-Defense laws can generally be boiled down to this statement, YOU MUST BE ABLE TO EXPLAIN THAT THE ASSAILANT HAD: INENT to cause serious physical harm, ABILITY to cause serious harm and the OPPORTUNITY to put your life in JEOPARDY.

 

Resources:

http://www.handgunlaw.us  (Laws and Maps)

http://www.handgunlaw.us/documents/NoHiCapChemSpray.pdf  (Restrictions on certain weapons and magazine capacities)

http://www.gunvault.com/ (Safes)

http://www.comp-tac.com/ (Inside the Waistband Holsters)

http://www.precisionplusfirearms.com/ (Training and Information on Self-Defense Tactics)

http://roadgunnerpodcast.com/  (Podcast about CDL Drivers and Carry)

http://www.usacarry.com/ (Maps and Forums)

http://www.gumcreekcustoms.com/ (Holsters for Vehicles)

http://www.amazon.com/Self-Defense-Laws-States-Edition/dp/0984505873 (Book of each State’s Laws)

http://www.amazon.com/United-States-Travelers-Firearm-Edition/dp/0972548955/ref=pd_sim_b_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=11W071PB5VMED3MPEHM9 (Book of each State’s Laws)

 

Disclaimer: This site does not, and cannot, constitute legal advice, nor does it purport to accurately communicate the laws or court decisions of the jurisdiction of any actual cases that may have non-public or other nuanced information unavailable to us. If you are in immediate need of legal counsel, please retain a competent attorney in your jurisdiction.

 

(1)The United States District Court Western District of New York on 12/31/13 struck down the law that only 7 rounds could be loaded in a magazine in New York. The Court also upheld other parts of the SAFE Act. You can possess 10 rd magazines. NY has put out info on the SAFE ACT and it states this: How many rounds can I put in my magazine? A: While at a recognized range, whether you are there for recreation or for participating in shooting competitions, you may load the full ten rounds into any magazine you have. Starting on April 15, 2013, you are limited to putting 7 rounds in the magazine in all other locations.

(2) Sec. 926A. Interstate transportation of firearms Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a
firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle: Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.