I recently read a letter on your website that concerned and disturbed me. A reader was asking for advice on what to do when they lost their right to self defense when they were traveling to California and how to bring their firearms to the state when visiting. The issues I take with the e-mail and hope to help the reader understand are that you never lose your right to self defense, no matter where in the world you travel. Self defense is an inherent right that can be taken from us by no one. Secondly, self defense does not begin at the end of a pistol, self defense begins in your mind and the attitude you must have when you are prepared to defend yourself and the things you have chosen to defend.
I happen to live in California and know full well the multitude of laws related to gun control which also happen to vary by location as well. However, these laws cannot prevent anyone from defending themselves. While there are agricultural check points upon arrival into California that you can get caught bringing "illegal" firearms into the state, the chances of these laws effecting anyone while traveling through our massive state are very slim. I'm not saying that your readers should break the law and take chances but I'm also saying that one of the state's biggest commercial crops is marijuana, which is still illegal to grow commercially. The chances of one of the laws effecting a short term traveler are very slim. Any time you must travel to any location, you must be aware of this issue and bringing your firearms while traveling is always a dangerous proposition.
The question therein lies with how do you defend yourself and while I know this has been addressed before, self defense begins way before anyone pulls a trigger. Self defense is about alertness and an attitude to be ready for events as they unfold. Being alert and knowing your surroundings can help people avoid bad situations far more than having a gun in a holster. While I have the benefit of years of hand to hand combat training, anyone who has not would probably feel much more comfortable traveling through life having undergone the self defense training and mental preparedness to gain confidence that you can successfully negotiate any situation that may arise. Even if you feel you are incapable of self defense via the hand to hand method, there are many methods of self defense that you can rely on prior to needing a gun. I have always looked to my tools that I can always easily travel with to provide an additional level of security including chef's knives, small camping axes and other items that can have an easily explainable purpose to customs officials or the local police.
Thanks for reading, - N. in California
JWR Replies: As I once mentioned in the blog, carrying dual purpose tools is all about context. Be sure to research your state and local laws--including fish and game laws--before carrying any dual use weapons. Some of the Nanny State jurisdictions now have laws on the books that have made their use, and in some cases even mere possession, illegal. The context in which they are seen by authorities is often crucial in justifying the legal possession of weapons or dual use items. A spear gun by itself in the trunk of your car would probably be seen as a "weapon", but one that I stowed in a dive bag, along with a mask, snorkel, fins, diving flag, a current fishing license, and a copy of the current year's fishing regulations would be seen as innocuous. Ditto for a baseball bat, that by itself could be misconstrued as a weapon. But if stowed in a dufflebag bag along with balls, gloves, and a batting helmet would look quite different. A flare gun by itself in the glove box of your car would be viewed as a major no-no in many jurisdictions, but one that is stowed in a box or bag in your car trunk along with an air horn, nautical charts, current tide tables, and a GPS receiver could easily be explained.
And then of course there are road flares, which require no explanation to carry in a vehicle. A lit 15-minute road flare can be quite intimidating.