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0307 FG: Homeland security – on the road

Brad Nelson Published on 06 June 2007

Way back when the earth was still drying up after the great flood I was seeing the Northwest through the windshield of a Freightliner truck.

I was located in southwest Idaho and made somewhat of a living transporting baled hay from the hay growing regions to dairies, cattle ranches and stables all over the Northwest.

Most of the time I was able to sleep in my own bed at night. When we started hauling hay to the Washington-Oregon coast areas to unload and then see if we could find a load of freight somewhere toward back home, the bed at home had to do without me for two or three days at a time.

I realized when traveling in strange territories I did not know whether or not an area was “safe” to park the truck while I tended to my beauty rest.

A spot large enough to park the truck might be safe and it might not be, but to keep driving when you are too tired to keep your eyes open is 100 percent stupid.

Pondering this situation, I made a trade with a fellow in my hometown. He became the proud owner of my fifty-dollar bill and I became the proud owner of what I nicknamed the “Teddy-bear.”

Manufactured by Rossi in Brazil, it had double barrels that chambered 12-gauge shotgun ammunition. The barrels were eighteen inches long, and the “Teddy-bear” had external hammers. The model is referred to as a “coach gun,” the usual firearm carried by the fellow who rode “shotgun” on the stagecoaches of the old West.

With the “Teddy-bear” loaded with buckshot and stuffed between the mattress and the wall of the sleeper of the Freightliner, I slept very well, regardless of my surroundings.

Now I had the means to grant the wish of any miscreant who came looking for trouble while I was looking for some peaceful rest. Thankfully, I never had occasion to use the coach gun. Can you imagine how big the eyes would get on anyone breaking into my truck when they realized they were looking down the barrels of a 12-gauge?

Now to fast-forward thirty years, and discuss personal safety while traveling in the current era. Four or five years back, we had the opportunity to load up the camper and get lost for a couple of days.

I now live in central Washington State. We traveled up to Lake Roosevelt, then crossed it on a ferry and eventually found an obscure park. It took low-range to keep the camper on the truck as we drove down into the wooded area and chose a spot to rustle together some lunch. I climbed into the over-cab bunk and closed my eyes for a few minutes while Elli prepared the food.

My short nap was disturbed, not by a call to come and eat but by a commotion caused by three or four inebriated young men in a junker of a car, which they drove down the trail to the park about forty miles an hour – the same route I had slowly crawled down.

As they parked and walked over to our rig, I got out of the bunk and brought with me the pistol that “lived” in the corner of the bed in the camper.

I sat down on the dinette and placed the pistol, with its case opened, behind me. I let Elli, who has more patience than I do, chat with them for a few minutes until they finally left.

We were both thankful I did not need to let them know I was armed. We were also glad we had the means to defend ourselves had the situation turned sour. I would like to make a list of things anyone should do before bringing a firearm along.

1) Find out if and how a firearm may be carried legally in your vehicle in all the jurisdictions you will be traveling through.
Most areas will not want you to have a loaded firearm in a vehicle. Some will want it to be locked in a case somewhere other than the passenger compartment.

Some will specify that the firearm and its ammunition be secured separately. There are fifty states and each state will have dozens of counties and a couple hundred towns and cities. What is perfectly legal in one area may not be in the neighboring county or state.

2) Should you choose to arm yourself, learn how to handle your weapon of choice.

The unholy day you need it to protect your family is not the day to figure out how it works. Every member of your family old enough to shoot should both respect and know how to use your weapon. You are the one who decides when a family member is old enough to learn to shoot.

I taught my youngest daughter to shoot a 44-magnum revolver when she was six years old. (I made up some light birdshot loads for her. The recoil and sound was about like a .22.)

Ten years later when she left on a date I would say to her, loud enough so the young man could hear, “Now don’t hurt him, Babe.” When her escort would give me a puzzled look, I would say to him that she had been shooting 44-magnum revolvers since she was six years old.

3) Obtain a concealed weapons permit.
Most states now issue this permit to anyone who qualifies (over 21, a U.S. citizen, not a convicted felon nor convicted of domestic violence, not a drug abuser, nor dishonorably discharged from the military and fairly sound mentally).

Possession of a concealed weapons permit tells any law enforcement person you have passed a thorough background check in your home jurisdiction.

Some states honor a concealed weapons permit from other states. Idaho and Washington, for example, honor each other’s permits.

That means when I visit my mother in Idaho I can carry concealed. The only glitch is that the direct route to Mom’s house is through Oregon where I need to unload and lock up my carry firearm. I would not live in places like California or New Jersey or New York, which still do not offer concealed carry permits to law-abiding citizens.

4) Consider your ability to control your tongue and your temper. You do not carry a weapon to intimidate others.

To brandish or display a firearm may cost you your concealed weapons permit, possibly for life. Alcohol and gunpowder are as poor a mix as alcohol and driving. If you are not totally in control of yourself all of the time, a firearm will do you more harm than good.

5) Be able to secure your weapon.
Starting at about a hundred dollars, small gun vaults can bolt to the inside of a camper, RV, TurboDiesel or whatever. You gain access either with a key or a keypad. This should be mounted out of sight, for obvious reasons.

6) Conduct yourself in a manner that will not attract the attention of either law enforcement or the criminal element.
If you are stopped by anyone wearing a badge for any reason and you are carrying, hand the officer your concealed carry permit with your driver’s license. And be very pleasant!

Use common sense. Concealed carry means just that. You should be the only one who knows you are armed. No matter what you are armed with or how good you are with it, you will be safer just being aware of your surroundings. This means parking at night in well-lighted areas, avoiding obvious bad scenes or areas, etc.

The NRA (National Rifle Association), of which I have been a member for longer than I can remember, is your best source for information on what is legal where.

It sponsors youth and adult training for both civilians and law enforcement. Most areas of the country have NRA-affiliated clubs, which offer a wide range of the shooting sports. Being involved in the shooting sports is a fun way to get well acquainted with your “Teddy-bear.”  FG

Editor’s note: Brad Nelson has worn the badge of a deputy sheriff and also attained a triple “A” classification shooting NRA-sanctioned Hunter Pistol Silhouette, open sight division.

Brad Nelson for Progressive Hay Grower