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Can owner operators carry guns
May 8, 2022
Can owner operators carry guns? It’s a common question, especially from drivers who are interested in becoming owner operators. That’s because a lot of drivers don’t always feel safe. Most drivers, including owner operators, have seen all kinds of criminal activity taking place around their vehicle.
But navigating gun laws in the United States can be tricky. Every state has different rules. Some have legal reciprocity with a handful of other states, and then there are federal regulations on top of all of that.
We’ll clear things up for you and help you to figure out can owner operators carry guns.
Why Should Owner Operators Want To Carry Guns?
This is a topic that pops up in the news from time to time. Many owner operators are seeking legal changes that make it easier for them to legally arm themselves in all fifty states. Every time that happens, people want to know why.
At first glance trucking may not seem like a profession that puts you in dangerous situations. After all, you spend all day in your truck on the highway. You might be at risk for traffic accidents, but it’s hard to imagine you’d need to be able to defend yourself.
And that’s true. During the day, and while on the road, trucking is a very safe profession. But that’s not the whole picture. At some point, every owner operator is going to have to stop. They’ve got to use the restrooms. They have to eat and drink. They need to sleep.
Often, they have to do these things after dark, and dangerous parts of town. You can’t just park an 18-wheeler anywhere, after all. It’s got to be someplace either designed for that purpose or where no one will care that there’s a giant truck parked.
Every owner operator can tell stories of the scary things they’ve seen, or that have happened to them. Many have watched drug deals go down right in front of them. They’ve seen police officers shot. They’ve been assaulted.
They are, after all, perfect targets. They’re alone, often in remote areas, and with literal truckloads of valuable goods. Most owner operators feel better having the ability to defend themselves.
Can Owner Operators Carry Guns?
A lot of company drivers aren’t allowed to carry guns by company policy. Carriers can’t prevent an owner operator from carrying a gun, though. That’s one of the reasons some drivers are interested in taking the leap and becoming an owner operator.
But just because the carrier can’t prevent them from carrying a gun doesn’t mean it’s legal. There’s a widespread belief that it’s against federal law to have a firearm in a commercial vehicle. But is it true?
Federal gun laws are, in general, a bit less strict than state laws. Contrary to popular belief, there’s no law which prevents an owner operator from having a firearm in their vehicle.
In fact, the only federal law which has anything at all to say about it is 18 US Code 926 A, which just says that you can carry a firearm across state lines for any lawful purpose, as long as you are not in violation of any state laws and are legally allowed to carry a firearm. So, in terms of federal law, an owner operator can carry guns. But state laws are really the bigger concern, since there’s a lot more variation in state laws.
Let’s say you’re an owner operator in Texas. Texas has a concealed carry law. So, if you’ve got a concealed carry permit, you can have a loaded firearm concealed on your purpose almost everywhere you go. There are only a few exceptions- military bases, for instance. Otherwise, you’re fine.
But if you have to drive over the border into New Mexico or Louisiana, things change. Those states only issue concealed carry permits to residents of their state, which means you, as a Texas resident, cannot carry a concealed weapon in those states.
However, if you’re a resident of New Mexico and you’re crossing into Texas, you’re fine. Texas will recognize the permits issue in New Mexico. Confused yet?
Different states have different rules
It can take a while to learn the different state laws. As an owner operator you need to know which states you’re going to be operating in, and familiarize yourself with the gun laws in those states.
In 2017 the House of Representatives approved the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. It hasn’t passed the Senate yet, but if it does, it would require every state to recognize concealed carry permits issued by any other state. This would make things a lot simpler for owner operators, but it hasn’t been passed into law yet.
In the meantime, remember that you can carry a gun in your truck without needing a concealed carry permit. Concealed carry means carrying the firearm on your person, and hiding it.
31 states allow open carry, which is carrying a firearm without concealing it, no permit necessary. Fifteen states require a permit to carry a handgun, even if it’s not concealed. Only five states (California, Illinois, South Carolina, Florida, and the District of Columbia) don’t allow the open carry of handguns at all.
Even then, each state has its own laws about carrying a firearm in a commercial vehicle. In other words, there’s not one answer to the question “can owner operators carry guns.” It all depends on whether or not you’re asking about concealed or open carry, and it also depends on what states you’re driving in.
You need to contact the D.O.T. for each state you’ll be operating in to determine what their regulations are, and make sure that you’re complying with them. In most places you’ll be allowed to carry a firearm, but the way in which you carry it will depend on local laws. Some states have much stricter laws about this than others. Texas is pretty lax, and most law enforcement there won’t blink an eye at you having a gun in your cab. California is going to be a very different situation, with much stricter laws about carrying a firearm. Know the local laws, and you’ll be fine.
There’s one scenario where there’s a clear, easy answer to the question of can owner operators carry guns. That’s the case of cross-border drivers. In Canada, the possession of handguns and concealed weapons is illegal. In Mexico, you can only carry a firearm if you’ve received permission from the federal government to do so. And there’s exactly one store in the entire country where firearms can be legally purchased, and only after clearly a series of extraordinary bureaucratic hurdles.
So, if you’re going to be crossing international borders as an owner operator, you’re going to have to leave your gun behind.
Is My Concealed Carry Permit Enough?
A lot of owner operators have a concealed carry permit, so that they can arm themselves at all times. Unfortunately, having that permit doesn’t actually make it legal for you to carry a concealed weapon everywhere you go.
Right now, there is no reciprocity law for concealed carry permits. That means that states are not required to recognize the concealed carry permits issued in other states. Your concealed carry permit from Colorado doesn’t mean anything in Michigan. Some states have reciprocity agreements with other states, others only offer recognition.
Reciprocity vs Recognition
This is an important distinction for owner operators to understand. If a state has reciprocity for concealed carry, it means that State A honors the concealed carry permits issued by State B, and that State B honors the concealed carry permits issued by State A.
Recognition means that State A will honor your permit issued in State B, whether State B will honor State A’s permits or not.
This all varies by state. For example, Texas will honor concealed carry permits issued by every state except Oregon, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and the District of Columbia. However, permits issued in Texas ARE honored in Wisconsin and Vermont, while California, Washington, and Illinois will not honor permits issued in Texas, even though Texas will honor theirs.
It’s worth pointing out that most states will recognize the permits issued by most states. If you have a concealed carry permit, there’s a very good chance it will be honored no matter which state you’re in, but it’s not guaranteed.
The penalties for carrying a concealed weapon without a valid permit can be quite severe, so it really does pay to be aware of which states will honor your permit to carry a gun. It’s not just about being sure you’re complying with the law- it also gives you a lot of peace of mind.
Why Don’t All States Recognize My Permit?
Some states choose not to recognize the permits issued in other states because they feel that the process for getting a concealed carry permit in that state isn’t rigorous enough. Sometimes it’s just a matter of interstate politics. The reasons can vary from state to state, and even from year to year.
Plus, they might change their mind and decide to start recognizing permits from a state they previously denied recognition to. In some states, they recognize permits from other states only after a certain date.
Again, it pays to stay up to date on the laws and permit recognitions of each state you’ll be operating in.
So, Can Owner Operators Carry Guns?
The answer is, usually. If you’re operating within the US, you can obtain a concealed carry permit and you’ll find that it’s going to be recognized in most states. That means that you’ll be legally allowed to carry a firearm in every state that recognizes your permit.
It should be pretty simple to make sure that your permit allows you to carry a gun in every state that you operate in. It’s possible, though, that you’ll end up having to drive in a state that won’t recognize your permit. In these states, simply store your firearm in a safe place within the cab- be sure to unload it first and store the ammunition separately.
It’s probably a good idea to look up which states recognize the permits issued by your state of residence before you get your permit. You may need to travel to another state to get your concealed carry permit, depending on where you’ll be operating.
The only time you are absolutely not going to be allowed to carry a firearm is if you’re driving across the border into Canada or Mexico.
What if I Don’t Want To Carry A Gun?
Not every owner operator wants to carry a gun, and that’s understandable. There are other ways of protecting yourself. As long as you have some means of deterring or incapacitating an attacker, you can protect yourself.
Tasers are a popular choice. They’re nonlethal and easy to use, but they’ll definitely incapacitate an attacker. Best of all, tasers are legal in 49 states, and in most places you don’t even need a permit to carry one.
If you’re looking for something that’s legal everywhere and never requires a permit, then you can simply keep a baseball bat or a tire iron by the door of your cab. There’s no law anywhere against carrying such items, and they can be very effective in self-defense. Often just being able to show the attacker that you’ve got a bat with you can deter them.
Many owner operators have pointed out, though, that if you just follow safe practices for parking, especially overnight, you don’t need to worry about protection. Most of the stories of owner operators finding themselves in danger are instances where they were parked by abandoned buildings or behind the stores they were delivering to. Had they parked in spots that owner operators are actually meant to park in overnight, they would have been fine.
Truck parking does cost money, but it’s better to pay for safe parking than to find yourself having to use a weapon to defend yourself. This also requires you building time into your schedule to find parking.
A lot of drivers, including owner operators, just pull over to the side of the road or into the first parking lot they see when they’ve reached the end of their hours for the day. This is what often results in owner operators and company drivers finding themselves in danger. Instead, you can start looking for parking earlier, find a safe place to park, and not have to worry about self defense.
A Gun Can Mean Peace Of Mind
Not everyone finds that argument convincing, though. Plenty of owner operators use best practices in finding places to park and sleep, and still feel a lot safer knowing they’ve got a gun to defend themselves with.
While a lot of owner operators decide to stick with something like a baseball bat or a taser, many find that this just doesn’t make them feel safe. After all, a baseball bat puts you at a huge disadvantage if someone pulls a gun on you, and carrying a gun might give you a big advantage if someone tries to rob you using a knife or a bat.
In most places, owner operators can carry guns. And there are plenty of owner operators that won’t work in places that won’t let them carry guns.
So, can owner operators carry guns? As long as you familiarize yourself with the state laws in your area well enough you should be able to protect yourself legally, with no trouble.
About Booker Transportation
Booker Trans is 100% Owner Operator. It is our belief that an Independent Owner is the best way to get a customers freight delivered timely and safely. Booker is a leading Refrigerated Carrier providing the best lease options in the industry for today’s Owner Operators. Monthly and Yearly Awards, Longevity Bonuses, and the Free tires for Life of Lease Program, are just a few examples of what Booker Trans offers the Owner Operator. Booker Trans has built it’s success upon working partnerships with Customers, as well as Agency Relationships built over the last 20 years. Those same relationships are what makes consistent year round freight possible.
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