What to Do If You Get Pulled Over While Carrying a Legal Firearm

Traffic officers make thousands of routine stops in their careers, and each one is different. The first seconds of a stop are often the tensest, and they can be made even trickier if you are knowingly carrying a gun — even if you’re completely within rights to do so.

Between avoiding other traffic and being prepared for the multitude of possible outcomes when they approach your vehicle, police officers are nervous for good reason. As a responsible gun owner, you should consider how you’ll respond if you are pulled over so you aren’t cited for failure to comply with local laws.

Having a Gun Doesn’t Make You a Criminal

As a gun owner with a concealed carry permit, there is nothing wrong with carrying your gun with you while you’re making a commute. Many law-abiding citizens apply for and receive permits to carry a concealed weapon every year for personal safety or because of the dangers of their career. In Virginia alone there are 248,939 registered firearms.

There are laws in many states that require you to disclose you have a gun, and there are good and bad ways to go about this. While you know you mean no harm, police officers do not. Producing a weapon in front of an officer should be precluded by calmly making introductions and stating in clear terms that you have the gun legally and then telling the officer where to find it.

Don’t Be Overly Excited to Show Off Your Steel

In his article, “I Have a Gun — Things Not to Say to a Cop,” officer Richard Johnson recounts multiple occasions during his tenure as a police officer when people failed to communicate that they were carrying a weapon. One man was just very excited about his first handgun purchase, and, in his eagerness to show the gun off, he shouted, “I have a gun.” He was lucky the situation didn’t end badly.

Another anecdote involves a house call officer Johnson responded to. The resident gave no prior warning before brandishing a pistol from his pocket and proclaiming, “hey, check this out!” Regardless of whether an officer is interested in your gun, keep in mind that they are concerned first for the safety of all those around. Producing a weapon is scary for them, so give them good warning before you do so.

Examples of Doing It Right

There are good ways to declare you’re driving in possession of a weapon. Let’s assume you’re pulled over in just such a situation.

First off, keep your hands on the wheel and allow the officer to approach the car as normal. When you make contact, calmly state you have a concealed weapon permit and there is a firearm in the vehicle. Make sure to use the term “firearm” and not “gun.” It may seem like a minor difference, but it shows a certain level of responsibility. The officer will want to know where it is, so either provide them this information right away or be prepared to share it willingly.

Most cops want to do the right thing and have your best interest at heart. One gun owner from Tucson, Arizona was so impressed with their conduct he posted it on Facebook. The important thing to remember is not to get overexcited and make a move that could be perceived as dangerous.

Your other option is to hold your tongue unless asked. Each state has their own rules about this, so make sure you know the law first. There are pros and cons to this method.  The most positive part is that you avoid any conflict if the officer doesn’t bring it up, so it’s a non-issue. The negative could be that if they later find out, it could seem like you were trying to hide it. There’s a pretty vast array of opinions on which method is best, and it’s up to you to decide which is best.

If you can take this advice and go into situations like traffic stops willing to make these small allowances for your local law enforcement, not only will they appreciate it, but you’ll both come away from the situation better off than if you don’t.

From Scott Huntington, a guest NMA blogger who is an automotive writer from central Pennsylvania. Check out his work at Off The Throttle or follow him on Twitter@SMHuntington

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2 Responses to “What to Do If You Get Pulled Over While Carrying a Legal Firearm”

  1. George_C says:

    This is dumb.

    So a cop will only treat you with respect if you are a concealed carry licensee?

    Firstly, you don’t need a permit for a right.

    Secondly, the police should assume everyone is armed; and treat everyone with the respect that is due them.

    Thirdly, most of this custodial arrests, violate the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.

    Fourth, just because a political subdivision of government writes something down, does not make the law valid. Keeping and bearing a firearm is a right; traveling in your vehicle is a right; even combining the two does not mean you now have a duty to tell an employee of government of what you are doing. If they don’t like the job-quit.

  2. Justin says:

    It says in Virginia there are almost 249,000 registered firearms.
    How can this be if you cannot register a firearm in Virginia? I mean you literally cannot register a firearm in the State of Virginia. Firearms are only “registered” with the store you purchased your weapon at, and by registered it is just a documented sale.