How To Interact With Law Enforcement While Carrying A Firearm
Law enforcement occasionally has contact with citizens in the field, and some of those police interactions happen to be with people who are carrying with a permit. Now, police have their own protocols for dealing with this situation, but what about for the civilian carrier?
There are certain things you can do to ensure that interactions with police go well. Granted, there may be some specific guidelines regarding law enforcement interactions in your state. While this isn’t legal advice, we’ll go over what that may entail as well as what you should do when encountering law enforcement to ensure that any traffic stops or other encounters.
Duty To Inform And Other State Requirements
Some states have laws requiring a concealed carrier to disclose that they are armed and carrying a permit to officers upon making contact, referred to as the “duty to inform.” In other words, you have to declare to the officer as soon as possible that you are armed and that you have a permit.
After all, it may be a good idea – if you happen to be carrying with a holster and gun belt – to keep police at ease, which alerting them may help do.
Granted, a duty to inform comes in a few different varieties. The hard Duty To Inform states mandate a person declare that they are armed without being asked. As the officer approaches, you have to tell them you’re carrying, whether a resident or not. These states are:
Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.
Other states only mandate you inform if asked, others ask you provide your carry license if asked, and some states don’t have any laws at all regarding informing law enforcement if you’re armed.
Make sure you’re familiar with the carry laws of your state regarding law enforcement interactions, as well as those in any state you’re travelling through, because just like ccw reciprocity, concealed carry laws differ by state.
That said, what are some other things that can help ensure a positive police interaction while carrying?
Tips For Police Interactions
These tips for police interactions are by no means ranked or in order, but each is something that will help put the officer at ease and help you get through a police interaction smoothly and with minimal fuss.
Turn the dome light on and keep your hands on the steering wheel. What police officers really don’t like are unknowns. By illuminating the cabin and keeping your hands in plain sight on the steering wheel, you and your hands will be visible to them.
Inform if you must or if asked. If you are obligated by law to inform, do so. If asked, do so as well. If you are not obligated to, you must decide whether to inform or not. However, do be prepared to hand over your concealed carry permit. Some people do so along with their driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance.
Remember to relax. If there’s one thing that police don’t like, it’s unknowns, and when a person seems nervous or on edge it means that person might behave unpredictably. If you relax, it will help them do the same.
Let the officer talk you through it and follow commands. If an officer tells you to do something, follow those commands. If you inform them that you’re armed, they should tell you what they want you to do and how they want it done. Follow those commands slowly and surely.
Keep your hands off your gun. This goes without saying, but bears mentioning. Don’t touch your gun. If asked where it is, don’t move your hand to indicate where it is, tell the officer where it is.
Make sure passengers are on the same page. The legal obligation of passengers to inform or produce their carry license depends on the state. Some state laws may be worded to suggest the driver of a stopped vehicle has the duty to inform, others may word it so that anyone may have to inform an officer if asked to produce their permit.
Ultimately, if you are acting within the letter and spirit of the law, and you act in a cooperative fashion, a police interaction should be uneventful. Remember that they are people just like everyone else; they just want to go home at the end of the day. Try to also keep in mind that every traffic stop is a gamble to an officer. They don’t know what is going to happen. If you take pains to make things easier on them, that’s going to help the interaction go much more smoothly.
Keep Your Hands On The Steering Wheel
If you are pulled over for a routine traffic stop, it’s important to let the officer know you are compliant. Keeping your hands on the steering wheel, keeping adjustment to a minimum, and remaining polite all go a very long way in keeping interactions civil.
Do You Have A Duty To Notify?
Some states, such as Texas, require a concealed carrier to notify the police officer upon request for identification. Other states, like Georgia, have absolutely no duty to notify the police officer. Because of the general disparity in state law requirements, it’s generally good to hand over your concealed carry permit alongside your driver’s license and registration. This lets the police officer know you are a legally carrying. He will then likely ask you if you are armed and you may answer accordingly.
Never Volunteer To Show Your Firearm
You may have a duty to inform a police officer that you are carrying a concealed firearm but you should never, under any circumstances, attempt to remove or display that firearm until specifically requested by that member of law enforcement. That police officer that just came to your window likely wants you to go home after his interaction with you is through. He also wants to go home to his or her family. Someone waving around their gun or even reaching for it does not bode well for that sentiment.
Be Honest With Yourself And The Police Interaction
If you’ve been driving under the influence, you’re in the wrong. If that wrong leads to you being pulled over and you have a a firearm on you, you need to contact your attorney as soon as possible and follow his instructions to a letter. In states like Louisiana, you are legally obligated to inform the police officer that you are under the influence and you are armed. This is for that police officer’s safety as well as yours. If it comes to that, do not attempt to explain yourself or use any words you don’t explicitly have to. Simply informing him of the conditions is good enough. As a trained member of law enforcement, he’ll know what to do from there.
Get Your Passengers On The Same Page
Your passengers are your responsibility while they’re in your car. If you have a duty to inform law enforcement and you do, your buddies and travel mates need to be aware of that as well. Make sure they conduct themselves in an appropriate manner and do nothing to endanger you, the officer performing the stop, or themselves. In states like North Carolina, you and your passengers are legally obligated to inform law enforcement at first contact. States like Kentucky greatly appreciate this information but do not require it and doing so many let the officer know that you are indeed a law-abiding citizen with no intention of harming yourself or others.
Again, the vast majority of all traffic stops conducted in the United States end with little to no issues. As long as your state reciprocity is good, you are compliant with the police officer’s lawful requests, and you understand your duty to inform – your police interaction should run very smoothly.
About The Author
James England (@count_england) is the contributing editor for BigFoot Gun Belts. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and private defense contracting in Afghanistan for L-3 Communications. He presently lives in New Hampshire where he advocates for veterans issues through the Veterans of Foreign Wars.