Pulled Over While Carrying – Part 1
June 20th, 2019
4 minute read
Vehicle registrations expire, tail lights burn out, turn signals aren’t always used, drivers speed – knowingly or unknowingly. Life happens, distractions happen, violations happen. In return, police stops happen.
As a former LE agent, I am familiar with both sides of the coin of a stop.
Every police officer is shown countless videos where an officer is shot during a “routine” traffic stop. The majority of these incidents unfold very quickly and violently. The officer who is professional and experienced, makes these contacts cautiously (with good reason) and with purpose. Upon approach of the vehicle and during contact, the officer wants to see as much of the passenger compartment as possible and is cautiously aware of the hands of the occupants.
Windows Down and Light It Up
You can assist with the de-escalation of any contact by giving the officer as much exterior visibility access by:
- Rolling down at least the driver’s side window prior to their approach.
- Remaining seated.
- Being patient — the officer might be checking the status of your vehicle and confirming the vehicle registration information prior to approaching your car.
- Turning on dome lights at dusk and at night. This will help with visibility and give the officer the sense that you are a respectful and law-abiding citizen.
After rolling the windows down, a good practice is to rest both hands on the very top of the steering wheel (11 and 1), allowing them to be plainly visible. Keep them there until directed to do otherwise.
To Say or Not To Say
“Do you have anything in the car that could hurt me?”
Personally, I have never liked the wording of this question that some officers use when asking if there is a firearm in your car. I’ve always preferred being specific. “Are there any firearms, weapons or drugs in the vehicle?” I would ask.
In many states, as well as my home state of Arizona, you are required by law to inform an officer, if asked, that you have a firearm and/or are carrying concealed. During a traffic stop, this rule applies also.
The laws regarding carrying firearms and concealed carry (on body or in your vehicle) vary depending on the state you are in. And it is your responsibility to know and abide by said laws.
The most simple way to describe “concealed carry” of your firearm in your vehicle is — can a person look through the windows of your vehicle, without breaching the threshold of the windows, and see the weapon?
If a person cannot see the firearm, the firearm is concealed.
If a person can see the firearm, it is NOT considered concealed.
The great state of Arizona is not only an open-carry state, but has also legislated that a concealed carry permit is NOT required to carry concealed.
So, if living in Arizona, by law, you would have to notify the officer of your concealed firearm, but you would not need to present a permit for the concealed firearm.
The bottom line is to ALWAYS know the laws in your state or the state through which you are traveling. #OwnIt
Resist Instinct – Don’t Reach
If you are asked for identification, explain where it is and then ask if you can get it / reach for it. Likewise if asked if there is a gun in the car, describe exactly where it is. Do NOT reach for your gun unless told otherwise. Ask first – or wait for direction from the officer.
There are often well-meaning armed citizens who immediately start reaching for their firearm (trying to be helpful) to show the location of their legally owned and possessed firearm. I highly discourage this action. I’m sure you can figure out why.
I’ve spoken with a half dozen police officers in just the past week regarding this specific topic. I’ve asked, “Do you disarm occupants who have firearms or do you just ask them not to touch their firearms?” The response varied depending on the officer of course. Some disarm and some don’t. Regardless – Do NOT reach for or touch your firearm unless requested.
And even if it does not make sense to you, follow directives! If there is an issue during the stop that did not seem right or appropriate, contact that police officer’s agency after the stop is completed.
Respecting Your Rights – #2A
In my decades of LE experience, I have encountered very few police officers that do not agree with the right of law abiding citizens to bear arms. Most of us in law enforcement know that there are many responsible gun owners who exercise their 2nd Amendment right, who are also pro-police, and will assist law enforcement in a threatening or deadly encounter if the need exists.
There are several documented incidents in Arizona (as well as most other states) where this specific situation arose. As recent as 2017 a Good Samaritan assisted an Arizona State Trooper who was being savagely beaten. This armed and humble American hero, stepped in and shot the would-be cop killer.
Law Enforcement officers know that there are many such armed citizens who thwart crimes on a daily basis, even though these stories rarely make the 24-hour news cycle.
So from one retired LE Officer to law-abiding, gun-toting citizens:
- Freely and safely carry, relative to our federal gun laws, your state’s gun laws (and the laws of any state you are traveling through).
- Be courteous, helpful and honest if contacted by law enforcement during your journeys through this great democratic country.
- Consistently train — both with your firearm and in “what ifs” mental encounters.
Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.