How to Interact with Police While Carrying Concealed during traffic stops
You are having a busy day and nothing has been going right, you are hungry because you skipped lunch, you mind is juggling a dozen things at once and then you look in your rear view mirror. "I'm being pulled over!"
In these days of heated debate concerning gun control, one of the last things you want to worry about is being hassled at a traffic stop by the police.
How to conduct yourself during traffic stop if you are carrying a concealed firearm
1) Does the jurisdiction allow ccw?
Make sure you are legally possessing the concealed handgun in the jurisdiction you are traveling through. If you have entered a jurisdiction in which your permit to carry is not valid, you are violating the law and you need not read any further.
2) Make sure to pull over if its safe to do so
As soon as you can, safely pull over and stop the vehicle. If you play a cat-and-mouse game or you are acting like you are hiding something, the officer will now be on a higher stage of alert which may increase the duration of the stop for the reasons of officer safety and continued suspicion.
3) Remain in the Vehicle
Once you have stopped, be patient and remain in the vehicle. The officer may wait awhile before he exits his car and approaches your vehicle. He is probably running your vehicle tag through the motor vehicle data base to see it is stolen or connected to a crime. Officers have no idea who they are stopping and safety is their watchword.
4) Roll Down Your Window and Keep Your Hands On the Steering Wheel
As the officer approaches you car, open you window completely and keep your hands on the steering wheel so they are easily seen by the officer. If it is dark in the car, turn on the inside lights and when he engages you in conversation be polite and cooperative. The open window, easily seen hands and light in the car aids him to assess the safety of the scene. Make no quick or furtive movements in his presence because it may trigger a defensive action on his part. If you have passengers in the car, advise them to remain silent unless they are spoken to and they too should refrain from quick, furtive or threatening movements.
5) Duty to Inform - know your CCW laws
During the conversation the officer will explain why he stopped you and ask for your driver's license, vehicle registration and proof of automobile insurance.
The reasoning is this, if you are legally carrying, there is nothing to worry about. A more important point is this, while you are retrieving your license, which is in your back pocket, your firearm may come into view. The officer is now faced with the decision in determining if you are going for the gun or your wallet. If the officer hasn't drawn his gun yet, this may change rapidly only in reaction to a motion toward the direction of the gun. The officer will be getting ready to defend himself if necessary. Police don't like surprises especially if it effects their safety.
6) Don't fidget or be nervous, your ccw permit is all you need
If you have advised the officer that you are carrying a gun, keep your body, especially your hands still. Inform him where your paperwork is located and where you gun is located, then ask him what he would like you to do next. At this point he will give you explicit instructions on what he expects of you.
7) Be Patient, Police Officers have to confirm everything
In addition to the vehicle and traffic concerns, the officer now has to confirm that you are possessing a legal handgun on a legal carry permit. Depending on the circumstances of the stop he may insist on retrieving the handgun by himself or trust you to make it safe and hand it to him. The latter is problematic for the officer's safety concern so don't get upset if the officer takes possession of it himself. Once again, if you are not violating the law, then there is nothing to worry about.
Parting Advice For Dealing With Law Enforcement While Carrying a Firearm Legally
You may still get a ticket or summons for a vehicle and traffic infraction but that is much better than escalating the situation into something worse.
When police officers interact with the public in any capacity, they are not only concerned with their safety but your safety as well.
Many officers support the right of a law abiding citizen to carry a handgun. Make your meeting with the police a safe, legal and uneventful experience.
You may also be interested in our recent article about guns and alcohol: Concealed Carry and Alcohol - What's the Bottom Line?
Disclaimer - This article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. For answers to specific legal questions, the reader should contact an attorney and or a law enforcement agency, which is located in the jurisdiction of their concern.
About The Author
Jerry Desko spent 27 years as a police officer for New York State. For 20 of those years he was an active firearms instructor and when promoted to lieutenant, he was in charge of firearms training for his region. He has trained hundreds of police officers at the academy level as well as in-service training sessions. Jerry has also competed in police firearms competitions and has been awarded several medals and trophies.