Lucinda Belden is the Program Director for MyRVRadio and a travel writer and advisor who has lived the RV lifestyle since 2019. She specializes in topics such as fulltime RVing, working full-time while traveling, traveling with toys, and unique location experiences.
RVers usually try to follow the law. But when traveling across the U.S., laws about RVing with firearms can be confusing. How do we know if we are breaking a law?
As we wade through what is legal and what is not about camping with guns, to minimize confusion it is always best to go to the source: federal and state law websites.
Firearms Laws for RVers to Consider
There is a lot of RVing with firearms information sharing across the Internet, all from various resources. The best place to begin your research is with federal and state websites documenting rules about traveling with firearms.
With that in mind, here is a federal and state law overview of what we should consider as RVers who are camping with firearms and various self-defense weapons.
National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Gun Laws
According to federal law 18 USC § 926A, every U.S. citizen may legally transport firearms across state lines. That is if he or she is legally allowed to possess the weapons in both the state of origin, as well as the destination.
National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges also do not prohibit legal firearm possession. But certain rules must be followed in order to do so.
For instance, in Title 36 Chpt. 1 Part 2 & 2.4 firearms laws state:
None of the provisions in this section or any regulation in this chapter may be enforced to prohibit an individual from possessing a firearm, including an assembled or functional firearm, in any National Park System unit if:
(1) The individual is not otherwise prohibited by law from possessing the firearm;
(2) The possession of the firearm is in compliance with the law of the State in which the National Park System unit is located.CHAPTER I – NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
PART 2 – RESOURCE PROTECTION, PUBLIC USE AND RECREATION
§ 2.4 Weapons, traps and nets.
What About U.S. National Forest Camping with Concealed Weapons?
Some states have separate laws concerning carrying weapons into U.S. national forests.
You must know the law. In most states, if it is legal for you to carry a concealed firearm in the state where the national forest you are visiting is located, you are not violating any laws.
If it is legal to openly carry a firearm (on your hip, for example) in the state where the national forest you are visiting is located, you are not violating any laws either.
Some states have laws against carrying concealed firearms into national forests within state lines.
Look at each state’s website to see if it is legal to carry and conceal firearms inside national forests that are located in that particular state.
Know how state gun laws can impact your travels.
State laws about RVing with guns gets a little tricky. For starters, federal law does not interfere with state restrictions of gun ownership and possession.
Also, federal does not restrict carrying a gun across state lines if you meet the legal requirements of doing so.
However, individual states can have additional firearms transportation restrictions that may prohibit you from carrying guns in RVs across state lines.
Examples of state laws about RVing with guns
Some examples of the way in which state gun transportation laws can impact your travels include restrictions like:
- You may carry the firearm, but it must be unloaded.
- Ammunition being transported cannot be readily accessible.
- The compartment cannot be accessible by the passenger.
- The firearm or ammunition must be in a locked container (other than a glove compartment)
- How state laws impact your travels might also depend on the type of weapon you are carrying (rifle, shotgun, handgun, etc.)
- Do you need a firearms permit in your state or the one you are traveling to? Some states require one, some do not.
- All states have different concealed carry laws too.
Currently forty-four states have a right to own firearms provision in their state constitution. These gun provisions are similar to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects the right to keep and bear arms.
These states do not have a “right to own firearms” clause in their constitution:
- New Jersey
- New York
Different states may or may not recognize permits from other states firearms transportation laws.
Are you are RVing with firearms into one of the above states? If so, be aware that they do have stricter firearms ownership requirements. Those states are not as flexible as other states’ permits and carry laws.
Federal and state firearms laws are even more complicated when traveling in an RV with guns. Questions arise if you should be considered traveling with your home and home laws apply. Or, if you are still considered traveling by vehicle.
Is Your RV a Home or a Vehicle?
You are legally allowed to have a firearm in your camper while traveling through different U.S. states. The law considers your RV a vehicle. But there is a federal law that protects you when you are in motion. It’s called, The Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, or also known as, “The Peaceable Journey Law.”
The Peaceable Journey Law grants anyone the right to carry their firearm across the state lines. Remember again though, that individual states have different carry restrictions that override federal law.
But note there are two laws that protect you when RVing with firearms. Federal Law 18 USC 926A (Interstate transportation of firearms) and the Peaceable Journey Law (Gun Control Act of 1968). In all cases, you are protected federally if you abide by the following:
- You are just passing through the restrictive state.
- You have a state license or permit to carry.
- You are not prohibited from possession of a firearm.
- The firearm and ammunition are not readily accessible.
- The firearms are unloaded.
- And if your vehicle (RV) does not have a compartment separate from the driver compartment, and the firearm is in a locked container other than the glove compartment.
What About Full-time RVing with Guns?
The rule that is most applicable to people RVing with firearms (especially as full-time RVers) is the ‘passing through’ situation noted above. The laws describe this situation as ‘Not staying for any determined length of time’.
You may be considered as someone who is just “passing through” if your domicile (residence) state is not the same state where you are staying. But you will need to provide proof your stay is not permanent.
If you do stay a lengthy period in one state that is not your legal residence, this will be an iffy situation for you. You should research the state firearms laws where you will be staying in for a longer period. See if you need to acquire a local gun license or permit for your firearm.
A Great Resource for State Gun Laws
If you’re RVing with firearms, one of the best resources to locate current state gun laws is Handgunlaw.us. Their “Carrying Firearms in your Car or RV W/O a Permit/License” document lists every state law’s gun laws. Locate the one where you will be staying or camping. It also contains important information about safely securing firearms inside your RV to prevent theft.
Responsible gun ownership means knowing how the law applies to you and your situation. Know the laws where you will be camping with firearms and you’ll stay out of trouble.