This article originally appeared on Ohio Students for Concealed Carry’s website as advice for the roadtripping college student. I think there is still plenty of value in it for the non-student or even someone who doesn’t travel with a defensive handgun. Happy Thanksgiving!

Many colleges across Ohio have no classes scheduled today. As a result, lots of students will be traveling by car distances far and near to visit family and friends. Traveling in a car, roadtripping, with a defensive handgun requires some extra precaution, both legally and practically.

The best way to travel with a defensive handgun is to wear it. Removing it from a holster to enter a vehicle and putting it back in the holster when you exit the vehicle can lead to a negligent discharge resulting from excessive handling. An unsecured handgun with one in the pipe riding around in a vehicle is a recipe for disaster. At the very least, cover the trigger.

The likelihood that you will not be able to speed away from a threat when you are seated in your vehicle is low, and can be mitigated with proper planing and awareness. As long as the law in the state you are traveling allows  you to wear your handgun, you should just wear it. A happy handgun is on your hip.

The best way to win a handgun fight is to not get into one. Even when traveling by car in areas you may not be familiar with, you can still take action to prevent your unwilling participation in one. And the effort isn’t that much.

  1. Don’t let your tank go past 1/4 full. You may buy yourself an extra stop, but the flexibility in choosing where you can fill up is worth it. Would you rather be looking at a needle on Empty in an urban jungle full of predators or have the option to just go to the next exit?
  2. When you stop, do so in such a way as to minimize the effort required to flee in your vehicle. Don’t pull up to the gas pump that will block you in. Don’t crowd the car in front of you at the drive-thru. Try to back into parking spaces instead of driving in.
  3. Travel in groups. Roadtrips are always more fun with a friend or two. And when you stop to answer that biological call, stay in your group. Your car and your stuff is indeed valuable. But your life or the life of a friend can never be replaced.
  4. Scan your surroundings and be aware. If your Spidey Sense tells you something isn’t right, it probably isn’t. There’s food and gas at the next exit. Move on. If you come out of a gas stop, rest stop, or restaurant and get the same tingle on your spine, go back inside and wait until the time is right. Your friends and family will better receive a call explaining you are late than they would a call to help you or even worse to identify your body.

Traveling with a defensive handgun legally can be very confusing. Confusion and ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Nothing will ruin the last few weeks of the term more than having to answer to criminal charges in an area far away from school.

Knowing the law is your responsibility. Fortunately, the web is a vast resource of information. Laws can be read online very easily in today’s world. And you’re all computer savvy college students.

In addition to the laws published on state and local websites, there are a couple of great resources everyone should be familiar with.

  1. NRA-ILA Gun Law Guide – This great resource also includes information on traveling domestically.
  2. – This great resource include an interaction reciprocity map, so you can know where your permit/license is also valid. Each state has a PDF you can print out for later reference. Each PDF includes links to local and state laws for verification

Roadtripping safely and responsibly with a defensive handgun isn’t difficult. It just takes a little extra planning and awareness. You can still have fun and be safe.