Elsewhere on the blog (here and a little bit here), we have touched on the concept of the truck gun (I should mention that, for those of us who do not drive a truck, the “trunk gun” is its equivalent). John and I have both mentioned the utility of the AR pistol in this particular role, though other firearms could obviously perform that same task as well.
In the wake of the nightclub shooting in Orlando, I have been seeing more and more buzz on the various online forums about people wanting to throw a long gun in their car “just in case”. I suppose part of the impetus behind this attitude is that the shooter in this case—as well as many other active shooter situations that have played out recently—used a rifle/carbine, and so they would like a weapon to match that level of firepower. But is this realistic for the armed civilian (the focus of this blog)?
Though no two of these shootings has been identical, let us, for our purposes, look through the lens of the massacre in Orlando. You are in a club in Florida, where you cannot legally carry your concealed handgun. However, trying to be ready for everything, you have decided to keep an AR-15 in the trunk of your car, along with some magazines and maybe even a blow-out kit. Into the club strolls “Johnny Jihadi” or “No-One-Loves-Me-Larry”, intent on showing the world….something. He is armed with a Sig MCX and a Glock 17, and he wastes no time in unleashing hell upon the patrons of the club.
Luckily for you and because you practice good situational awareness, you have already identified alternate exits you can use in case something bad happens. You bust out through the side door and head to your car to grab your AR-15, spare magazines, and blow-out kit. You don this gear and start “marching to the sound of the guns”, ready to be the hero of this horrible incident.
Unfortunately for you, responding police are arriving in droves, and all they know from 911 calls is that there are one or more bad guys shooting people with “machine guns”. And they see you heading toward club with an AR-15 in your hands. How do you think that will work out for you? At worst, you will be shot. At the very least, you will slow the police response to the actual shooter while they figure out who you are and what you are doing.
A number of well-known and respected instructors with decades of combined real-life service have said that same thing (Paul Howe and Greg Ellifritz come to mind, but there are many others). The fact is, these active-shooter events are “come as you are” situations. If you are caught up in one, you are going to have to solve problems with the tools you have with you or with things you can improvise on the spot (not just weapons, of course, but also medical gear). For this reason, and as I mentioned in my article here, I am a firm believer in carrying a pistol everywhere you can, a knife if you cannot carry a pistol, and also carrying at least some medical gear. It is also why I continue—with varying degrees of success—to train with my pistol at 25 yards on a regular basis (if I had regular access to a longer range, I would be practicing even further out).
Thinking or assuming that you can make it to your car and then get back into the fight, safely, is a pipe dream. I particularly love the people who, when asked if they carry a reload for their concealed carry handgun, reply, “No, but I keep a spare in my glove compartment.” It may as well be on the moon.
Having said all of that, I will now put forth my exception to all that I just wrote. If you are someone who spends a lot of time in your car commuting or traveling for work or otherwise, then that truck/trunk gun may be very important. I have linked to this story before, but this excerpt is worth another look. On December 17, 2015, in the wake of the San Bernardino attacks just days before, The New York Times ran a story about the male shooter and an accomplice which included this little tidbit:
In 2011 and 2012, Mr. Farook and Mr. Marquez planned an attack on the library or cafeteria of Riverside Community College, where they had been students, and a rush-hour attack on State Route 91, a busy freeway — choosing those targets “because they wanted to maximize casualties,” the agent wrote. They discussed throwing pipe bombs at their victims from high vantage points, and then shooting people.
In the freeway assault, they believed the bombs would disable cars and halt traffic, and then “Farook planned to move among the stopped vehicles, shooting his rifle into them, and killing people,” Agent Anderson wrote. Mr. Marquez was to shoot motorists and emergency medical workers arriving on the scene, and “according to Marquez, his priority was to shoot law enforcement personnel before shooting lifesaving personnel.”
I must admit that it gave me a little chill. It doesn’t take too much imagination to dream up a similar scenario for your own environment. I don’t want to give terrorists any ideas, but consider a heavily traveled urban freeway, the type that has limited access via interchanges/entrance and exit ramps and is either somewhat sunken below surface street level or the elevated highway type. Never mind the pipe bomb idea in the article; all it would take would be a terrorist driving a truck to simply turn the vehicle sharply and block all lanes of a traffic, perhaps having a similarly equipped accomplice do the same thing some distance behind. Get the picture?
The terrorists could now dismount and shoot with impunity at the people in all of the stranded, boxed-in cars. On an elevated highway or bridge, the only escape might be jumping down from a considerable height. On a stretch of highway below street level, egress might be even tougher. An even more horrific scenario might be blocking off both ends of a major tunnel (in New York City, for example, the Queens-Midtown, Brooklyn Battery, Holland, or Lincoln Tunnels would be prime targets, better than most because of the strict concealed carry laws in New York City. Armed resistance would be unlikely.).
In such a scenario, as long as you weren’t one of the closest cars to the terrorists, you might have time to access your stored long gun, make it ready, and then engage the terrorists with equivalent firepower and, more importantly, effective range. Prior coursework in vehicle tactics with a vetted instructor would also be invaluable in such circumstances.
Though the idea of such an attack might seem outlandish, keep in mind the linked story above. Also, consider that “things” have been getting stranger and stranger lately! Thus, I think that, if you are someone who has to regularly commute by car via such routes, having a long gun in the car may not be the worst idea in the world. In my own situation, my daily commute takes me on surface streets where I regard my own threat matrix as primarily from local hoodlums rather than active shooter/terrorist situations. I also regard the chances of theft of the firearm from my vehicle as almost infinitely greater than me ever needing it. This is exacerbated by the fact that I am a teacher and would need to park my car off school property, increasing the chances of it being stolen.
In short, the idea of leaving a location where an attack is underway in order to retrieve a long gun from your car and engage the threat is pure Walter Mitty. However, if you feel that you could potentially be IN the vehicle when a long gun might be advantageous, then having one available is probably not a bad idea.
What are your thoughts on keeping a long gun in your car for self-defense purposes? Please share below. As always, thanks for reading.