I finally had to comment on this thread.
Camping and self-defense
People have already made a big step in personal safety when they recognize that not everyone out there is a friend. There are people who prey upon other people no matter what the laws say. To know this is not being "¯paranoid"¯.
The matter of personal security while camping should be on all of our minds. However, a great number of folk give it little or no thought. For the most part, these good people will drift through life without a lethal confrontation. A small number of the unaware will encounter a dangerous or deadly situation and become victims with their last thought in disbelief, "it can't be happening to me!"
People who accept the possibility of criminal attack and plan for it are ahead in the survival game. One must accept that the right of self-defense exists or simply don't be worried. If being a victim is unacceptable, then certain measures may be taken.
The first principal of personal defense is "awareness". Don't camp in places where the atmosphere is unsavory. Commercial campgrounds that cater to permanent residents often have an unsavory element that may be dangerous when drunk. Be aware of all people around you. Be concerned when someone watches you with inordinate interest. Don't leave stuff lying around unsecured as an invitation to thieves. Be careful about restrooms and showers, go with your children. Investigating nighttime noises should not be a matter of jumping headlong into trouble. A well-lighted campsite is recommended.
Another element of awareness is that a defensive firearm (or bear spray) isn't much good unless there is sufficient warning time to get it into readiness. Be alert to what is going on around you. If it looks as if a bad situation is developing, get the mind working on the situation and diminish the chance of bad decisions.
Know that it is tactically unsound to confront a thief when you have no means to win if things turn deadly. I had two personal acquaintances that were murdered because they tried to stop an armed robber from looting their campsite. They returned from a hike and accosted the thief who shot them both. He went to the nearest town to the use the credit cards taken from the bodies. The victims would have been better off to not approach the criminal and try to get a license plate numbers from nearby vehicles. No personal property is worth your life.
Having spent many years as a firearms instructor in the area of self-defense, I would admonish citizens who choose to have a firearm for self-defense that it is a complex responsibility. The owner is not guaranteed success by mere possession of a weapon. Just because you have a car, it doesn't mean you can win the Indianapolis race. One must train to be thoroughly familiar with the firearm so the mind is free to sort out the tactical problem.
The traveler should be familiar with the laws of the states in which the firearm is transported. The laws regarding the use of deadly force vary from state to state. Basically, one may never use deadly force in defense of property, and deadly force is acceptable only in a life-threatening situation. If it becomes necessary to use deadly force, and you are legally in the right, remember that you may be in for a serious court problem under civil law. Criminals like to sue folks who injure them while they attempt to attack citizens. So, absolutely avoid the problem if at all possible. Knowing when not to use a weapon is as important as recognizing when to use one.
The best firearm to deter large animal attacks is the 12 gauge shotgun with slugs. A short barrel (legal) is preferred for ease of handling and storage in an RV. If one is not in bear country, a shot load may be better for over penetration reasons. However, too small a shot size may not get enough penetration to cause the opponent to stop his action. A handgun should have a round of sufficient power to stop the fight (such as .45ACP). Adequate penetration is the key issue in wound ballistics. The question of where the bullet travels if it exits the bad guy should not be primary to saving your life or your family's lives. Studies by the International Wound Ballistics Assoc. show that frangible bullets are a not to be trusted in handgun ammo, "hollow points"¯ are not desirable. They seldom work as advertised, and if they do expand they tend to inhibit penetration to vital organs. A round that comes apart on ribs or heavy clothing wont stop the fight.
Chemical weapons can be a deterrent. If pepper spray is selected, it should be a bear spray in a large can. Small containers run out too quickly, and you don't have a second or third chance for contact. As double duty, spray it is certainly good to have in bear country. As with any weapon, it must be close at hand or on your belt or it is worthless. See the Counter Assault site: http://www.counterassault.com
One last remark, the individual is the only person responsible for his/her personal safety. One cannot depend upon the coincidental presence of the police or rangers. One cannot expect others to give their lives to protect you.
I don't intend to imply that camping or full-timing are especially risky activities. They are not.
The National Rifle Association published a travelers guide for firearms laws. The price is $12.95.