Observations of an Armed Holiday Traveler

Having recently returned from my holiday travels, I decided to make a few observations from the “Armed Citizen” perspective.

This year, my wife and I decided to take our four children on a family vacation to Pensacola, Florida. It having been over eight years since we'd REALLY taken a proper vacation, the decision was made. Two weeks on the Gulf Coast was in order! Not knowing how long my oldest would still be around, and my next-oldest in the process of getting her driver’s license, who knows when such a family trip could happen again.

So we set off on a Saturday morning with the family loaded up and my boat in tow! Now, needing some additional boating gear to be properly prepared for some bay fishing and the possibility of sneaking out of the inlet on a good day, our first major stop was Cabela's in Bowling Green, Ky. As you would expect, Cabela's was a gun-friendly location, and I was unimpeded as I went about my shopping. Filling up at the local station, no one batted an eye at my 1911 as I pumped. With Kentucky having enjoyed many years of legal open and concealed carry, and having visited our neighbors to the south on many occasions, I expected nothing less.

Not yet in need of fuel, we did not stop in Tennessee on the way down. I had confirmed the legality of open carry in that state for licensees, but had no occasion to exit my vehicle.

Making our next stop at a rest area in Alabama, I was slightly inconvenienced to find a “No Guns” sign on the facility when I got to the door. For a “shall issue” state that allows open carry in “most public areas” I was surprised to see it. I guess with those signs having been removed from Ohio's rest areas several years ago, I had not thought much of it! Where was the public outcry from Alabama's state gun rights organization? Why have Alabama's gun owners let that go on? As both my wife and were armed, it was easy enough to ensure the family's safety, by simply taking turns abiding by the law and disarming one at a time for the stop. I was more inconvenienced by my next stop, however, when the only two fuel stations were both criminal protection zones. Not willing to spend my money with a business owner who chooses to take away my right to defend myself and my family, we moved on. Neither of those establishments will ever know how much money I may have spent there, or why that guy from Ohio hauling a boat pulled through both parking lots, then left without stopping for anything.

So, I found my diesel and drinks/snacks for the family at a place just over the line into Florida. Now Florida presented its own challenges for me! Being accustomed to open carrying virtually everywhere I go in Ohio, I constantly had to make sure I wore a cover garment. Something I rarely think about in my home state, especially while at work (I run a shooting range) or running errands in my own community. I did observe a couple of tourist locations in the Pensacola Beach area that had “NO GUNS” posted. I also observed a location that had an NRA decal on its front door. The only time I openly carried my firearm was at the beach house property and on my boat.

I certainly kept my 2014 Traveler's Guide to the 50 States handy, and felt confident in what I was legally allowed to do wherever I went, being mindful of each state's laws as we crossed those imaginary lines across the road. Thinking about our laws in Ohio, and how they have changed over the last ten years, I am grateful for what we have created here. No, it's not perfect. Yes, it needs to be better. But we've come a long way! Most of all, I am grateful for all the dedicated folks we have here in the Buckeye State who are passionate about the Second Amendment and have sacrificed so much of their time and energy to get us where we are today. One need only travel across some of those imaginary lines to share my appreciation!

Aaron Kirkingburg is a Buckeye Firearms Association Minuteman, a Range Mngr/CRSO at Dillon Sportsman Center, an NRA Certified Instructor, NRA Endowment Member, and Ohio Hunters Ed Instructor.

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