Concealed Carrying And Law Enforcement: Disclosing That You're Armed
Occasionally, a person will have interactions with law enforcement while concealed carrying. This presents a question about whether or not - or how to go about - disclosing that one is armed.
Bear in mind that this is not legal advice, in any way, shape or form. Rather, this is meant for general discussion purposes.
Concealed Carry And Traffic Stop
Disclosing that one is concealed carrying during traffic stop falls into one of two categories - something a person may want to do or something a person has to do. It depends on the disclosure laws of the state a person is in.
There is also what is called the "duty to inform." The duty to inform is imposed by state regulation onto the person who is licensed to carry concealed. It is either full upfront disclosure or disclosure if asked. That means that if a person is carrying concealed and stopped by police, they either have to tell any police officer that they are legally carrying a firearm from the get-go, or they have to disclose whether they are carrying if asked by a police officer.
Only a few states impose no duty to disclose whatsoever and a small number also have special circumstances regarding when a person does or doesn't have a duty to disclose.
Consult the laws of your state or the state you are traveling in for more information, as the laws of each state are specific to that state.
If there is any nearly universal requirement, it's that a person have their concealed permit on them. In case an officer asks to see a permit, almost every state requires a person have their license available, which is why it's a good idea to always keep your concealed carry permit on you.
What To Do During A Traffic Stop While Concealed Carrying
What should you do in a traffic stop while you're concealed carrying?
If your state imposes a duty to inform, it is imperative that you do so. It is also imperative that you keep your concealed carry permit on you at all times, unless you live in a constitutional carry state.
That said, the first thing you should do is relax. A twitchy, nervous, jumpy person will make them alert and suspicious, and they may already be on edge due to the dangers of the job. Do not make that worse for them.
Next, roll your windows down, turn the dome light on and place your hands at "10" and "2" on the wheel. Police officers want to see your hands and prefer to be able to see as much as possible.
What is definitely known is that police officers DO NOT like surprises. Therefore, it is a best practice to inform the officer that you are carrying even if not required to by law. If asked - and they may, as concealed carry licenses can pop up in information searches - tell them where on your person (or otherwise) the pistol is located.
DO NOT attempt to physically indicate where it is. Say it. Don't point or motion, just talk.
After you inform, STOP. Don't do a thing. Keep your hands exactly where they are at. Let the police officer tell you what they want you to do and how they want you to do it.
A policeman may say something like "if I don't see yours, you won't see mine." They may disarm you; they may detain you for longer to wait for backup to arrive. It depends on the officer in question. Follow their commands, and let them talk you through what they want you to do.
Make sure that any motions you engage in be done slowly and clearly in sight.
The point is that you need to let the officer control the situation. This is for their general safety and peace of mind. Remember, they face a certain amount of danger in their job and have just been told that there's a gun in their midst that isn't theirs. That can be stressful. Act with a little empathy for that and it will make the process easy.
If you're forthcoming, polite, and follow their instructions, you will be fine.
Passenger's Duty To Inform
However, what if a person is legally carrying concealed and is a passenger in a car that is stopped by police? Most laws really only concern the person that is being detained by police, which in the case of a traffic stop is almost always the driver.
At the very least, informing an officer in this situation is supererogatory - you may not be obligated to inform an officer that you are legally carrying a handgun, but it is definitely a good idea.
However, there are few mentions of concealed carrying passengers in most state laws - in fact, Ohio is more or less the only state that mentions it specifically. At that, any vehicle occupants (including the driver) that are legally carrying a concealed weapon are obligated to inform a police officer during a traffic stop that they are carrying a concealed weapon, are licensed to do so, and provide the license along with photo ID.
With that being said, what most states DO have in their concealed carry statutes is a duty to present, upon request from a police officer, a copy of a concealed carry permit for anyone that is legally carrying. Therefore, if you are legally carrying while a passenger in someone else's car, make sure that you have your license on your person.
While Concealed Carrying On Foot Or At Home
If interacting with LEOs whilst carrying on foot, the same ideas generally apply.
Make sure to consult your state and local laws. If you have a duty to inform, make sure you do so. Make sure that you have your concealed carry permit on you if required to physically possess it while carrying.
Once you alert the officer or officers, stop whatever you're doing. Don't do anything. Wait for THEM to tell you what they want you to do. When you comply, do so slowly and totally in plain view.
Just like with a traffic stop, you may be disarmed by the officer or they may simply have you place your hands on your head or otherwise. You may be detained until backup arrives. Or the officer may say something along the lines of "don't touch it and you won't have to worry about mine."
Again, let the officer tell you what to do and do so slowly, carefully and let them guide the encounter.
If in your home, the same ideas would also apply. Yes, it is your home, but that doesn't mean that officer safety doesn't matter. They may ask you to disarm or to keep your hands in an easily visible location. If occasion presents itself for police officers to enter your home, you need to follow the same general guidelines.
Inform them that you are armed if required by law to do so, and follow their instructions. That will ensure the encounter goes smoothly.
Be Aware Of Duty To Inform Laws
Whether driving, a passenger, or on foot, be aware of the duty to inform laws in the jurisdiction you are in. Some additional laws may apply in specific municipalities, or they may not - again, depending on the jurisdiction.
A common refrain is the concealed carriers are among the most law-abiding citizens out there. If that is true, be compliant with law enforcement. A good strategy is to provide a copy of your concealed carry license along with a state-issued ID (such as a driver's license) if asked for identification by law enforcement.
At minimum, be prepared to provide your permit upon request, if not disclose immediately that you are carrying and provide the license.
About The Author
Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests include camping, hunting, concealed carry, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible..