Yes, you are allowed to have a firearm in your camper while traveling through different states. There is a federal law called, Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, or also known as, “The Peaceable Journey Law”, which grants anyone the right to carry their firearm across the state lines. But there is a caveat to this, read below…
Can I Have a Firearm In My Camper While Traveling Through Different States?
The Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA) is a federal law allows every person to carry a firearm across state lines as long as the following conditions are met…
- You have satisfied all legal requirements to carry that weapon in your home state,
- You have satisfied all legal requirements to carry that weapon in the state you are planning to visit,
- While you are traveling through any state(s) in between, where you do not have the legal right to carry a firearm, you must continue traveling and not stop, with the exception of refilling at a fuel station or restaurant, and
- While you are traveling, the firearm must be unloaded and stored in a place that is out of reach, unless state law allows otherwise.
Firearm Reciprocity Laws
Various states have agreements with each other that allow gun owners in one state to have full legal rights to carry and use their firearm in the other state, and vice versa.
If your home state has “reciprocity” with the state are you intending to visit, you can freely carry your firearm across state lines with little worry, as long as you respect the requirements laid out in the FOPA law (see above).
You can check the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Reciprocity Map & Gun Laws by State for specific information.
States With No Reciprocity
There are a handful of states that have NO reciprocity with any other states; California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. In these states, it is illegal to bring a weapon across their borders, as well as even use a weapon for self-defense, unless you have satisfied all legal requirements in that state.
The good news is that no state is going to stop you at the border and ask if you’re carrying weapons.
California and Arizona has border patrol checkpoints along major highways within 100 miles of the Mexico border. But agents at these checkpoints do not ask if you’re carrying weapons. They do, however, have dogs that walk around your vehicle sniffing for narcotics and weapons, but they are only looking for large caches.
California also has Agricultural Checkpoints at all highways entering the state. However, these agents don’t ask about weapons, and are only concerned about fresh produce being brought in.
What Do I Do If I’m Stopped by an Officer?
If a law enforcement officer pulls you over, or visits your campsite, then say nothing about your firearm. Keep your firearm stored and out of sight.
As long as you haven’t been shooting your gun, no forest ranger or Sheriff’s deputy is going to ask you about it. Keep all other firearm accessories (targets, clay pigeons, holsters, et al) put away and out of sight.
Can Law Enforcement Search My Camper?
No. The only way an officer can search your vehicle is under the following conditions…
- They have a search warrant with your name on it.
- They ask to search your vehicle and you (foolishly) allow them.
- They see evidence (probable cause) such as drugs, drug paraphernalia, a weapon, a gun holster, ammunition, et al, or you (foolishly) volunteer information about having a weapon in your vehicle.
Otherwise, if an officer asks to search your vehicle, then refuse. Simply say “No Sir, you may not.” Offer no explanation. If the officer continues to ask, then keep answering, “I do not answer questions”.
What Do Other Boondockers Do?
Every full time boondocker we’ve met carries at least one firearm in their RV, van, or camper. Most of them carry their firearm(s) into states with no reciprocity laws (particularly California).
They simply say nothing about their weapon when arriving at a Border Patrol Checkpoint, Agricultural Check Point, or when stopped by an officer. They make no mention of it, and they keep their firearm hidden from view. This is not to imply that this makes it legal, this is simply our experience of what most boondockers do.
If you plan to camp in a state with no reciprocity, and you have not satisfied the legal requirements to possess a firearm in that state, then say nothing about firearms, keep your firearm stored away and out of sight.
Read More About Guns and Boondocking
- Can I Shoot My Gun on Public Lands?
- Do I Need a Gun to Protect Myself When Boondocking?
- 2022 Traveler’s Guide to the Firearm Laws of the Fifty States (Amazon link)