5 Reminders About Carrying Your Gun on Vacation
Sergeant Betsy Brantner Smith
Let’s face it, cops love vacation. We work our rear ends off all year so we can go fishing, boating, camping or take the family to the beach, to a historical site, or to one of the big theme parks. However, summer vacation often poses a problem for us when it comes to off duty survival. It’s easy to carry a gun when you’re hiking and camping, but it’s not so easy to arm yourself when you’re frolicking on the beach with your kids, dressed only in a Speedo.
Here are a few things to consider when you’re heading out on that family road trip.
Know the Rules
Off duty cops often don’t take a firearm with them when they travel because they simply don’t know the rules and regulations of various situations. I fly with a firearm (or two or three) everywhere I go within the United States. Go to the TSA’s website and check out the regulations for checking a firearm and ammunition in your luggage, its not as complicated as you might think. If you’re driving, make sure you’re familiar with HR 218 (the Federal law that allows law enforcement officers to carry a gun in all 50 states, with the some restrictions) and your own departmental policies concerning off duty carry. Many museums and theme parks have metal detectors and/or security checkpoints, so you’ll have to have your credentials ready, but most will allow an off duty or retired cop carry their firearm in their facility. Check out each place you intend to visit beforehand and remember to be informed, patient, and polite.
Always Have Control of Your Weapon
If you’re heading to a theme park with all those insane, 60 mph upside down rides and you intend to carry a gun, make sure it’s in a holster that can withstand all that G-force! Think about a smaller weapon for off duty or vacation carry. I love my small frame .380, but there are so many great options out there now for smaller arms and more concealable carry; do your research! If you’re heading to beach or the hotel pool, be sure that you make your weapon safe and that you secure it so it can’t be accessed by thieves or curious kids.
Consider Alternative Weapons
Occasionally, it’s just not practical or safe to carry a gun, such as when you’re building ocean-side sand castles with your kids or taking a resort scuba course, so consider alternative weapons, such as knives, an improvised blunt instrument, an old credit card that’s been sharpened on one side, and of course, your own body. Cops are used to having tools available to protect themselves, but if you’re going to be in a situation where your usual tools are impractical, think about how you’ll protect yourself in advance, and most of all, be aware. As we like to say in the Street Survival seminar, “your mindset is your most valuable weapon.”
Some of us (okay, a lot of us) like to kick back with an adult beverage or two while we’re on vacation. If you’re going to do that, especially if you’re with a group of friends, it’s often a good idea to appoint a “designated decision-maker” before you pop open the first bottle. Cops certainly aren’t immune to the “beer-muscle” phenomenon, and we’re used to being in charge, which can make some of us a bit belligerent when we’re consuming alcohol. Others become a bit too friendly and/or let our guard down too dramatically. So many cops have lost careers in alcohol-related, off duty incidents. Don’t be one of them! It’s much easer to enjoy yourself when you know you have a trusted friend who’s got your back, both physically and mentally. And don’t forget to take your turn as the sober one every once in awhile.
Uniform Trumps Plainclothes
If you get into an off duty force situation, remember that at some point the uniforms are going to show up and you’re initially going to look like just another bad guy. Mentally prepare for this ahead of time. Inform your family and friends what may happen if you have to take off duty action. Teach them to call “911” and inform the dispatcher not only what is happening, but who you are, what you are wearing, and if you have a gun or other weapons. When the uniforms arrive, do everything they tell you to do, even as you tell them you’re a cop. Be prepared to get treated like a suspect and obey all of their orders. Put yourself in their shoes; you know you’re a cop, all they know is they’re showing up to a “man with a gun” call.
This summer, take that well-deserved road trip, head for the woods, or get on a plane and hit the beach. Just make sure you don’t leave your survival mindset behind. Stay safe!