By Stacy Bright, Women’s Outdoor News
“What should I do if I’m pulled over by a police officer while I’m carrying my firearm?” This question frequently comes up in my gun classes, so much so that I’ve added a section in my PowerPoint to discuss how to handle the situation. Hopefully, you’re a cautious driver and won’t find yourself in this predicament, but if you do, here are some things you’ll want to remember.
As a gun owner, you should be aware of the laws of your state, and even more so if you carry a firearm on your person or in your vehicle. You should know ahead of time, before you’re pulled over, if you have a “Duty to Inform” the officer that you’re carrying a firearm. In states that have a “Duty to Inform” law, it is required to inform the police officer, without being asked, that you are carrying a firearm.
In other states it is required that you inform the officer, only if asked, and in the remainder of the states there is no duty to inform. Know the laws of your state, and any that you might be traveling through. It’s a good idea to do your research and check your local gun laws as they change periodically.
Generally, I suggest that you inform the officer by showing your driver’s license and concealed carry permit/license up front, as a courtesy. For most officers, knowing that the driver has a concealed carry permit signifies a law-abiding citizen, has passed a thorough background check, and has taken some type of course that covers basic gun safety and skills.
As nervous as you might be when you see the flashing lights in your rearview mirror, it helps to remember that the officer likely has some anxiety as well when approaching your vehicle. They have no idea who you are, or what they’re about to encounter. The officer’s goal is to go home safely that night. Do everything possible to ease his/her mind by being polite and agreeable.
Steps To Take
To make the situation easier for the officer, consider these steps:
- As soon as you know you’re being pulled over, turn on your blinker to let the officer know you’re in the process of complying. Slow down and pull off the side of the road as far as possible for your and the officer’s safety.
- Put the car in park and take your foot off the brake. Consider turning off the ignition, if the weather isn’t too hot or cold to do so. By doing so, you’re showing the officer that you don’t plan to flee the scene.
- If it’s dark outside, turn on your dome light to illuminate the interior of the vehicle and allow the officer to see inside as he approaches. You’re indicating that you have nothing to hide.
- Roll down both of your front windows. Often times the officer will come to the passenger side of the vehicle first.
- Place your hands on the steering wheel. The officer wants to see your hands to make sure you’re not a threat. Keep them on the steering wheel until he tells you to do otherwise.
- When asked for your license and registration, let the officer know that you have a concealed carry permit (if you do) and that you have a firearm on your person, or in your vehicle. Don’t say, “I have a gun.” Proper verbiage is critical. Ask the officer, “How would you like me to proceed?”
- When allowed, slowly retrieve your current driver’s license and concealed carry permit, as well as any other documentation requested by the officer. It’s good to plan ahead and keep your driver’s license and concealed carry permit together so that you aren’t fumbling to find them during a traffic stop. Limit motion that might be misinterpreted as suspicious. Also, keep your registration and license information together in your vehicle.
- Remain in your vehicle unless you’ve been told otherwise. Comply with whatever the officer asks you to do until you’re told that you’re free to go.
Following these steps won’t necessarily get you out of a traffic ticket, but it will help the encounter go smoothly without making the situation worse.
While I’m not a law enforcement officer, I know many who are. As my friend, Deputy Aaron Roberts, said, “Your attitude will often determine how the traffic stop goes. If you’re polite and respectful, you’ll get the same treatment. However, if you’re a jerk … good luck!” Use common sense and show respect for the officer.
Stacy Bright holds instructor certifications from the NRA in Pistol & Rifle, as well as being an Range Safety Officer and Refuse to be a Victim instructor.