By: James R. Davis

A Canadian recently posted the following message in which he expressed his concerns about traveling on his motorcycle in the United States:

[blockquote]As a group of us are planning a trip through Wash, Oregon and Calif along the pacific coast and further inland in May, (without any guns and only a small knife to cut our BBQ’d steak.) Are there any precautions that we should be taking or places that we should avoid? The question was asked in good faith. Though this is not a particularly exhaustive answer to the man, I posted it here because I believe it expresses sufficient ‘pearls’ that some readers might avoid a very dangerous situation as a result of having read it.[/blockquote]

For as long as I’ve been riding (almost 40 years) I have been aware that many of my riding buddies travel with a gun somewhere on their bikes. Only recently has the practice of some been to carry the weapon within reasonably easy access, particularly some of the women – in ‘fanny packs’. Almost always they are carried safely stowed away in their luggage.

[Let me make it clear that it is legal in about 28 States to carry a concealed handgun, provided you are licensed to do so – (most applicants for those licenses over the past year have been women.) But it is illegal to carry a concealed gun without a permit in every State other than Vermont. Nevertheless, the fact remains that they are everywhere.]

In nearly 500,000 miles of riding I have NEVER seen a motorcyclist show a gun IN PUBLIC, let alone threaten to or actually use one. At campouts I have seen them transferred into tents for the night, and on hiking trips I have seen them holstered (in plain sight of all of us, but away from the public.) In other words, it is reasonable to assume that traveling motorcyclists in the USA are carrying a weapon, and this is not new news. Now I’m not talking about members of some motorcycle gang, I’m talking about ANY motorcyclist who is out on the road – from school teachers to judges. Certainly not all of them, but you simply cannot know which do and which do not.

Are there precautions to take? Certainly!

  • Do not get into an altercation with a biker.
  • Do not threaten a biker.
  • Do not touch a biker’s machine without permission. (Not likely to get you shot, but bad form.)
  • Do not believe that ONLY biker’s are carrying weapons! Virtually every cab driver, every long-haul rig (“18-wheeler”) driver, MANY private automobile drivers, and MANY MORE pickup-truck drivers are also carrying weapons. (In other words, assume they all are.)

Since you are now advised that you should assume that virtually anybody you encounter on the road is carrying a weapon, then it is obvious that these precautions apply at all times, not just when bikers are around. What this leads to is the often quoted (in Texas) conclusion that “an armed society is a polite society.

Finally, and this might strike you as being totally in jest – it is not:

  • If you can’t keep from using a one-finger salute when angry, consider amputating your middle fingers!

At least in the USA most bikers treat other bikers like family. You avoid confrontations, generally, with family. Right?

[As an aside, Canada has the third most heavily armed population of all nations in the free world. In fact there are some studies that suggest that there are as many weapons per person in Canada as in the United States – though they have far more rifles and shotguns, and fewer handguns.]

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(James R. Davis is a recognized expert witness in the fields of Motorcycle Safety/Dynamics.)