In the past few weeks, a tow driver in Texas was shot and killed by two men at an apartment complex in Houston.  Another driver attempting to perform a private-party impound (PPI) and aggressively defending his “catch” was shot but survived.  Another driver was shot while being robbed.

There are several subjects that immediately come to mind when I hear of an unfortunate chain of incidents like this.  First and foremost, I think of ways we can avoid putting ourselves into scenarios where we might be in danger.  Danger is common in the repossession and PPI areas of the industry, but it can also crop up during much more routine tows.  The other issue is very complex – carrying a weapon. You need to know your legal rights to do so or not, to know how to handle yourself in potential high-risk situations, and to know that carrying a weapon can land you in jail or be used to legally defend yourself.

We often work alone in our industry.  You have communication via a radio, phone, or satellite system, but none of those methods can truly help you if you are confronted with violence or an otherwise threatening situation.  In high-risk areas or on high-risk tows, perhaps you can use the buddy system and have another driver work in an “overwatch” position able to respond to your location easily or at least call for help.  I performed PPI towing in San Antonio and Denton, Texas, and PPIs and repossessions in the greater Philadelphia area.  We ran in packs of two or three trucks or rode with two people in a single unit, consequently and thankfully, we avoided trouble.  There’s a safe way to do an unsafe job, but you must plan and keep your head on a swivel.

Tow Professional magazine isn’t a forum for gun rights or the Second Amendment, so I’m not about to get on my soapbox about what we should or could do out there.  I know from my background in law enforcement and as a licensed concealed/open carrier via my state concealed- carry license and my federal Law Enforcement Officer’s Safety Act (LEOSA) carry-permit, there are still huge restrictions, even with the latter’s 50-state reciprocity.  There are many places you already can’t carry a weapon, like government buildings, hospitals, and any business with proper signage prohibiting weapons.  With that said, and I’m sure some will argue, there is absolutely no restriction for carrying a weapon in a commercial vehicle, unless prohibited by laws in your state or city.  As long as the law allows it and your company allows it, and you’re properly licensed and trained, you may carry.  Please think again about the restrictions, and the notion that merely showing your weapon as a matter of threat or intimidation is a felony in most jurisdictions.  To cut a complex idea to simpler terms, you can’t pull your weapon unless confronted with an equal threat.

There have been many arguments about the “weapons in commercial vehicles” subject, and after years of debate, I figured out where this notion came from.  According to 18 USC 926a, when transporting weapons or ammunition as cargo, weapons must not be transported with ammunition, and said weapons or ammunition must not be accessible from the passenger compartment.  The most important aspect of that directive are the words “as cargo.”  Transporting a load of shotguns to a sporting goods store isn’t the same as carrying your personal weapon. This 18 USC reference is supported in FMCSA 49 CFR.

One last thing, other than keeping your head on a swivel – if you’re remotely thinking about carrying a weapon, please understand that just because your uncle was in Vietnam, and he taught you to shoot a .22 rifle into a tree when you were 12, that doesn’t count as training and experience.  Training and experience are far more valuable than a weapon itself – get some decent marksmanship safety training and spend significant time at the range before considering carrying a weapon.  Most people who attempt to defend themselves without proper training and familiarity or brandish a weapon due to ego and lack of experience and knowledge, end up dying or seriously injured or in jail.  Check your ego, get some training, and be careful.