Traffic stops are never enjoyable. They can be especially unnerving when you carry a firearm. Although you have your firearm legally, it can be a very awkward situation if you do not know what to do. As a responsible gun owner, the best way to be prepared for any problem is to educate yourself and stay informed.
In this article, I want to give you some key points to remember if you get pulled over with your firearm.
1. Stay Calm, Cool, and Collected
If you are like me, the minute you hear the sirens and flashing lights of a police car behind you, you become instantly irritated. Other people become anxious, scared, or even angry. Your demeanor can set the tone of how your traffic stop will go. It is important to remember that you have no idea what the police officer has dealt with before encountering you. They also do not know anything about you and have no idea what to expect when approaching your car. Therefore, remaining calm, cool and collected will benefit you far greater than being argumentative or combative.
2. Keep Your Hands on the Wheel
As soon as you safely pull over, roll down the window. Put your hands on the steering wheel and keep your seatbelt on. If you have any passengers in your vehicle, instruct them to keep their hands visible and on their laps. Do not begin to fumble around looking for your identification and proof of insurance. Instead, wait until the police officer asks for this information, then tell them where it is located and retrieve it.
Most importantly, stay in your vehicle. Any commotion during a traffic stop could put the officer on the defensive as they have no idea what you could be retrieving or planning to do. So remain calm, keep your hands on the wheel, and stay in your vehicle.
3. Your Firearm – To tell or not to tell?
If I encounter a traffic stop, I will let the officer know that I have a concealed firearm in my car. This has happened to me twice since I began to carry. I was pulled over for something minor in both instances, like a non-functioning taillight – not speeding. I stated that I had my concealed carry permit and was indeed carrying at that time. In both cases, the police officers said that was fine and continued with why they had stopped me. They did not ask to see my firearm. I kept my hands visible and on the steering wheel throughout the stop while I remained compliant and polite. Some states have changed their laws, and a person is no longer required to inform a police officer if they are carrying a firearm. It is up to you to check the requirements where you reside. If your state does not require this, then the decision is yours to make. Again, I would rather be upfront with the officer as a courtesy. Typically, they will not ask to see your firearm. If you tell the officer and they do indeed ask you to present your gun, my suggestion is to do this:
- With your hands remaining on the steering wheel, tell the officer where your firearm is located and that you wish to be one hundred percent compliant—but they will need to be the one to retrieve your firearm.
- Let the officer know that you in no way will be reaching for your firearm as you do not feel safe in doing so. This is legal to say and do, and it is for your protection. Officers are trained to disarm people. This is not a refusal to present your firearm. It gives the officer permission to disarm you versus you surrendering your firearm yourself.
Following these simple measures can make all the difference during a traffic stop. But, again, every state is different with varying requirements. Know if your state has unconstitutional red flag laws or is known for confiscating guns.
Therefore, it is up to you as a responsible gun owner to consistently review your current gun laws. These laws are constantly changing, so you must keep up with them to stay current.
By Karen Hunter
Karen is a firearms instructor, industry consultant and contributor to GetZone, Athlon Outdoors and BRCC. Follow Karen on Instagram and Facebook or visit her website at thekarenhunter.com