Highway Rest Areas, Your Firearms & Personal Safety

By Major Van Harl USAF Ret

Highway Rest Areas And Your Firearms
Highway Rest Areas And Your Firearms
Major Van Harl USAF Ret
Major Van Harl USAF Ret

Wisconsin –-(Ammoland.com)- Back in October the daughter had to go to St. Louis for a school interview a few weeks back. She has broken her foot so the Colonel decided we needed to drive the daughter to Missouri and provide parental support.

With all the unrest in St. Louis there was no way I was headed to that city unarmed. In fact they had more protests and violence on 13 October, the day we were there. There were negative signs posted in the area around the school campus we visited.

Unbeknownst to us, there were hundreds of protesters on the college campus the night we were in St. Louis. By the morning of 13 October they were down to 25 protesters.

I believe if it had not been pouring down rain all night and day on the 13th our visit might have been somewhat unpleasant, but I only guess.

This road trip meant most of our driving would be in the State of Illinois. Missouri recognizes my Wisconsin conceal carry permit, but gun-unfriendly Illinois will not offer reciprocity to any other state. I have law enforcement credentials that override civilian conceal carry laws, but the truth is I steel feel sorry for the average non-Illinois citizen passing through that state.

Now before I get the usual disgruntled feedback advising me that “by God” I will carry my firearms anywhere I want no matter the state law, just remember you may be repeating that idea to yourself in jail.

Because of my daughter’s broken foot and her need for a wheeled scooter to get around, we choose to stop at interstate rest areas. They have handicapped parking right in front of the building and large handicapped bathroom stalls. A truck stop or a fast food place that we normally prefer to use was less convenient this time.

As we walked and scootered into our first Illinois rest area there was the “no guns allow” sign on the door. Being an “old cop” and having actually worked crime scenes at rest areas I know how dangerous they can be. So here was the State of Illinois that begrudgingly granted its citizens the ability (last State in the Union to do so, sorry NJ you have the law but I know you can still not carry) to legally carry a concealed firearm, prohibiting those citizens, a chance at safety and survivability in a known danger spot of interstate transportation – the dreaded highway rest areas.

If you have time for some in-depth reading do an on-line search for rest stop / area crime. There are all kinds of “slasher” books and movies out there based on violent crime at rest areas. A lot of it is over the top sensationalism to sell a book or movie, but the stories are attributed to actually crimes.

Back in the late 1990s I was with a CSI unit of a Texas police department. There were crimes at Texas rest areas all the time. The solution was to take out the bathrooms and running water. It would appear bad guys and sexually active perpetrators do not want to hang out for long periods of time looking for victims if there are no indoor restrooms.

The sad part is honest travelers now only have places to stop, but no place to “go.”

Back in the early 1990s there were a number of homicides on the inter-state highways of Florida. International visitors were a prime target. It was later discovered that the criminals were in fact afraid of the then new Florida conceal carry law that allow its citizens the ability to protect themselves. So, the bad guys went after the out-off-staters and foreign visitors since they traveled unarmed.

Rest areas are systematically being removed completely or at least having the bathroom buildings closed along the US southern border.

After you have been traveling for days in the deserts of our southwest, illegally crossing the international border, you may develop a desire for running water and indoor plumbing.

As far as I have been able to discern, there is no restriction on conceal carry in Oklahoma rest areas. I would however suggest you do some research about Oklahoma and any other state you may be traveling in. Just because you are an honest citizen who has done all the required work to carry your lawful firearm with you in public, does not mean you can take your personal protection device with you everywhere you want. One slip (IE: Shaneen Allen), and the honest citizen becomes the unwanted criminal, and all in the name of your family’s safety.

Your safety and potentially violating the law will always come into conflict for you,,, choose wisely.

Major Van Harl USAF Ret. /[email protected]

About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret., a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School.  A retired Colorado Ranger and currently is an Auxiliary Police Officer with the Cudahy PD in Milwaukee County, WI.  His efforts now are directed at church campus safely and security training.  He believes “evil hates organization.”  [email protected]

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It just amazes me what things have come to. This country is getting more dangerous by the damn day and all these idiots want us to just sit back and become easy prey for criminal trash to attack, rob, rape and murder us innocent citizens. What is wrong with this picture my friends. The State of MD is really outrageous. To get a permit around here, you have to be seriously “connected” or be a business owner, otherwise forget it. And look how horribly violent and dangerous it is here…..Great job “gov’t”

Robert Bostick

I submit the following taken from the United States Constitution. I have never understood why this section has never been properly applied across the board. The following tells me that if I have a legal CCW in my state of residence then any other state has to honor that if it is the law of my home state. They do not have to have the same laws since all the state constitutions are different but they do have to honor the laws in my state. Article IV Section 1 Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to… Read more »


Law licenses are on a per-state basis and are not honored from state-to-state
Licenses to practice medicine are not honored from state-to-state
Contractor’s licenses are often not even honored county to county in the same state (California, for example)


As a military member stationed at Fort Sill, OK, with a PA Carry permit, I took the class to find out the differences between the states. Rest Areas / Rest stops were one of the items discussed. The following locations are Unlawful carry locations per Oklahoma Self Defense Act Title 21 1277.A.1: Any structure, building, or office space which is owned or leased by a city, town, county, state, or federal governmental authority for the purpose of conducting business with the public; However per 1227.B.4 the following locations are exempt from the unlawful carry provision: Any property designated by a… Read more »

Dr. Strangelove

Handgunlaw.us has all of the rest area, park and wildlife area laws. And if you have a valid out of state permit, you can carry in your vehicle in IL. Just don’t get out with it and make sure it’s locked if you do.