Q: Thanks for the gun safety information that was published in last week’s Daily Press. It was very helpful. I’m taking my family camping this holiday weekend and there’s a shooting range at the campsite where we are staying. How can I transport my firearm legally?

A: I’m glad last week’s information was very helpful to you. In California, it is illegal to possess a loaded firearm inside of your vehicle. In order to safely and legally transport your firearm in California, you must place the unloaded firearm in a locked container. The term “locked container” means a secure container which is fully enclosed and locked by a padlock, key lock, combination lock, or similar locking device. This includes the trunk of a motor vehicle, but does not include the utility or glove compartment. As a rule of thumb, your firearm should be unloaded, locked in a container, and placed in your vehicle’s trunk. If you drive a pick-up truck or a vehicle that does not have a trunk, you can place your unloaded firearm in a locked container. Make sure the locked container is placed in an area that is not within arm’s reach of the driver.

Since you’re traveling during a holiday weekend, take extra precautions when transporting your firearm. Most people will opt to use the hard plastic case that was sold with the weapon. It is very common for these cases to have loops or holes on them to allow the owner to apply an exterior lock. With locks attached, these types of cases are considered acceptable “locked containers.” If you choose to use this type of container, please be very mindful to never leave it in plain sight in your vehicle. Car burglars have keen eyes in spotting those cases. They will try their hardest to find a swift and easy way to enter your vehicle and remove your firearm. On another note, if you’re a gun enthusiast or your gun came with stickers, please don’t display those stickers on your vehicle. Those stickers are eye-catching advertisements for car burglars. You may not have a weapon in your vehicle, but the car burglar doesn’t know this. This burglar is going to pay extra attention to your vehicle when it’s parked and left unattended.

Now that you know what you need to do before transporting a firearm, please make sure to follow each of the four fundamental rules for gun safety:

1. Treat all guns as if they were loaded.

2. Never point your muzzle at anything you’re not willing to destroy.

3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.

4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

If you always follow the above rules when dealing with firearms, you will greatly reduce your chances of having an accident with a firearm. You can never be too safe when dealing with guns. Check, re-check, and re-check again to make sure your firearm is unloaded and locked in a container before you transport it. If you would like more information on gun safety and transportation, you can visit the California Department of Justice website at www.ag.ca.gov.

Q: There’s a guy who just moved into the house next door to me. He drives a black Ford Crown Victoria that has exempt California license plates on it. I never see him wearing a uniform, but his car looks like it has lights and sirens. Is this a common car assigned to undercover cops? Can he legally pull someone over in that car?

A: The vehicle that you describe is definitely not an undercover vehicle. The Ford Crown Victoria is the most common and standard police vehicle in use today. With or without markings, that car stands out and would not be used as an undercover vehicle. The vehicle you described sounds like a dual purpose emergency vehicle or an unmarked government car. I use the term “government” because the information you gave is very limited. There are a lot of different agencies that use Ford Crown Victorias. They are not limited to police use. Fire departments, transit agencies, and social services have all been known to use these types of vehicles.

As far as your new neighbor is concerned, I cannot say whether or not he can legally pull someone over. If he is employed by a law enforcement agency as a law enforcement officer, then yes, he can legally pull someone over while driving the vehicle you described. Police managers (chiefs, captains, lieutenants, etc.), detectives, and SWAT officers (just to name a few) utilize vehicles similar to what you described. Officers using unmarked vehicles equipped with a red light and siren can legally stop violators of law. If your neighbor doesn’t hold a job with peace officer powers, then no, he cannot pull people over.

Have you introduced yourself to your new neighbor? If not, you should. Getting to know your neighbor is the first step in building a strong and safe community. Your neighbor may even choose to tell you what he does for a living.

This column was prepared by NRO Mike Boyd, Beat 8 (Pico Neighborhood). He can be reached at (424) 200-0688 or michael.boyd@smgov.net.

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