By Sam Hoober, GunBelts.com
If police pull over a person that is legally carrying a concealed firearm, what should such a person do? That’s a question that gets asked a lot. Many concealed carriers pride themselves on being law-abiding citizens, and given that they have a gun on them, how best to act when interacting with police is a good thing to know.
After all, police keep the rest of us safe. Police officers are also just like everyone else – they have anxieties, fears and just want to get home at the end of the day. Their own safety is just as important as everyone else’s.
And sure, there are plenty of articles out there that list off some very good ideas, mostly of what’s relatively common sense. However, it’s best to get advice straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. The following quotes are from real police officers, given to various news outlets around the nation, about what police want from concealed carrying citizens during a traffic stop or other interaction.
If pulled over, relax. Assistant Police Chief Michael Ward of the Bradford, Penn., Police Department told The Bradford Era that any motorist stopped by police should first relax and take a breath. Police officers don’t know what to expect from a traffic stop and are human, too. Captain Brent Allred of the Wichita Police told the Wichita Eagle that motorists should relax and be as forthcoming as possible. Nervous and twitchy people tend to make officers more nervous in turn.
Declare that you have a concealed carry license and a concealed pistol. Virginia State Trooper Alan Kelly told Britsol, Va., ABC affiliate WCYB that, “we do not like surprises” and to inform an officer of the permit.
Spokane, Wash., ABC affiliate KXLY quoted Chief Lee Bennett of the Airway Heights Police Department as saying it is best to “declare that you have a concealed pistol license and where the weapon is.” This same sentiment was echoed by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, of Loudoun County, Va., from their Facebook page in the wake of the Philando Castile shooting. A similar view was echoed by Police Chief Scott Marchand of Pocatello, Idaho, in the Idaho State Journal after that state enacted its constitutional carry law.
It is also recommended to hand over your permit along with your driver’s license.
If you conceal on your person, it is vitally important that you only say where it’s located; do not attempt to physically indicate where the pistol is located. If you do, that could escalate matters without intending to. Chief Bennett also said not to reach for anything where the weapon is located unless directed to and to do so slowly. Many people have their wallet and holster on their strong side, so this is of vital importance to remember for those who carry in this fashion.
Similarly, WCYB, after speaking with other law enforcement officials, recommends that if your registration is in the glove box with a pistol, to alert officers to that – and do so before reaching for the glove box.
Keep your hands in plain view. Chief Bennett advises that concealed carriers stopped by police to keep their hands on the steering wheel unless ordered to do something else. The Loudoun County Sheriffs’ Office recommends having the window all the way down, hands at 10 and 2 on the wheel and to have the dome light on.
Wait for the officer to give you instructions and when you comply, do so slowly and in plain sight.
Lieutenant Bryan Peterson of the Woods County, Wisc., Sheriff’s Department cautions not to do anything unless instructed, according to CBS affiliate WSAW. Do NOT reach in the direction of the gun after alerting an officer to its presence. Trooper Kelly of Virginia likewise cautions to perform every action slowly. Chief Marchand of Pocatello, Idaho says not to reach for the pistol and keep hands in plain view.
It’s also common for an officer to tell you how they want you to do what they tell you.
“The officer will talk you through it,” Marchand says.
Be prepared to surrender your weapon for the duration of the traffic stop. Chief Bennett told KXLY that it was standard policy for people carrying on their person to be asked to exit the vehicle and allow the officer to disarm them. Other officers quoted above echoed similar sentiments, as they may – but also may not – want to secure a weapon. They may also request a second officer to join them, and have you wait until the second car arrives.
Many officers also recommend good communication from both parties. That shows good faith, and disclosure up front of the presence of a firearm and license allows the officer to not be surprised by a concealed gun. Lt. Brandon Kutner, of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Department of Alachua county, Fla., told Gainesville, Fla. ABC affiliate WCJB that “as long as there is an open line of communication between the officer and the individual, usually there’s no problem,” and many of the above-quoted officers likewise recommended both parties openly communicate during police contact.
Many of the officers quoted by these sources stressed that officers have no idea what to expect during a traffic stop and experience the same emotions that motorists do when stopped by police. Try to remember that. A bit of empathy in this situation – and indeed, anywhere – goes a long way.
In fact, if there had to be a distillation of all of these recommendations from officers, empathy is most certainly it. Put yourself in the officer’s shoes, and act accordingly.
Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for GunBelts.com, a subsidiary of Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit GunBelts.com.