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How to Handle a Police Encounter While Carrying Concealed. | U.S. PATRIOT NEWS & REVIEWS

How to Handle a Police Encounter While Carrying Concealed.

I recently visited a large firearms show and spent the better part of the day touring manufacturer’s displays of their latest and greatest, with booths offering training in everything from close quarter combat to instinctive shooting and experts offering their advice on how to handle almost every scenario you can think of – and even some you would not dream of on your best day. But, do you know what I did not see? I did not see a single vendor, expert or even a handout providing even the slightest guidance on how a concealed carry firearm owner should respond during a police encounter.

Carrying ConcealedRegardless of the doom and gloom the evening news brings your way on a regular basis, most firearms owners will rarely find themselves faced with a situation which requires using that firearms for self-defense. However, it is much more likely that if you carry your firearm on a regular basis, you will come into contact with a law enforcement officer during a minor incident, such as traffic stop or accident.  But what do you do about your firearm when this happens?

Before I offer a little advice in making sure a minor encounter does not escalate unnecessarily, it is important to remember that every jurisdiction is different in terms of what you can or cannot do when carrying concealed, their rules concerning weapons in vehicle, and when permits are required.  For the sake of this scenario I will keep it simple and assume you are in a jurisdiction which allows concealed carry, you are legally doing so, and that this is a simple traffic stop rather than a criminal investigation or mere encounter on the street.

  1. Remain calm. Being stopped for any reason can be both stressful and a cause for being nervous. The officer conducting the stop knows this and expects a certain amount of stress; what they do not expect is to see you sweating unnecessarily, fidgeting uncontrollably etc. Sit still and wait for the officer to approach; if it’s nighttime, turn on the dome light so he/she can clearly see you as they do so. NEVER reach for anything, especially your firearm, unless told to do so.
  2. Inform the officer you have a firearm. This is always a major point of debate with many CCW holders. Some suggest a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude while others recommend simply handing the officer your permit along with your driver’s license and leave the officer to take it from there. As an officer I can tell you that there is nothing that raises tensions as much as finding out a weapon is present halfway through an encounter. I recommend calmly informing the officer that you have a firearm in the vehicle as soon as the opportunity presents itself, and then let the officer direct you from there. Of course, if you live in a state that requires such an announcement, you must follow your local requirements.
  3. Do not argue. In most cases, having a legal firearm in your vehicle will have little impact during a minor traffic stop. The officer may inspect your permit or request that the firearm is secured until the stop is over. Cooperating with reasonable requests will ultimately ensure everyone is on their way as quickly as possible. If you believe the officer was unreasonable, rude or overstepped his/her authority, it is often best to simply comply and then follow up with a complaint to a supervisor after the fact.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell

10 thoughts on “How to Handle a Police Encounter While Carrying Concealed.

  1. Fantastic ADVICE! Thanks. But IF you are of African descent/”Black-Brown” or Muslim AMERICANS , (YES many of us are Veterans , or ACTIVE DUTY ) ) MOST TIMES , the ‘Encounter’s are NOT pleasant, UNFORTUNATELY.
    Also, depending on the STATE/County a Gun Show is in, ‘we ‘ are NOT always welcomed. But I deal with IT regardless. PRAY , KEEP CLAM & COMPLY !
    It IS what IT IS !

    1. I’m white and have a couple encounters with police where they acted like jerks toward me. In one case it was totally unjustified and in another case ( a seat belt check point) the officer thought I was giving him an angry “look”. In both circumstances, something else had their emotions running a bit high so I guess I can excuse their behaviour somewhat. All I’m saying is that it doesn’t just happen to brown people and sometimes our behaviour can make the situation worse. Since black/brown people tend to have a chip on their shoulder, I would guess these same people will tend to aggravate the situation.

  2. Nearly every LEO I encountered was a staunch supporter of responsible CCW. The one time I was pulled over, I believe I was given a warning instead of a ticket just because I was a CCW holder and informed him. I’ve heard anecdotes like that many times. Big thanks to our LEO’s….doing a damn near impossible job and not getting much praise for it. Y’all are awesome.

  3. I’ve asked a state trooper and a city police officer in my state (CT) what to do if stopped for a ticket of some kind in my car. Both said I do not need to inform them unless, for some unknown reason, they ask me to get out of the vehicle. Then I should inform them and ask them how they want me to proceed from there. I always act calm and respectful since they have a difficult and dangerous job. I just don’t think it is necessary to announce my permit and firearm if all they are doing is citing me for an infraction, or checking for seat belt/dui stop. Under those circumstances it is truly non of their business. It’s not that I’m on a crusade about it but this is a free country, especially for law abiding citizens. By the way, I don’t drink, always wear my seat belt and haven’t had a traffic ticket in something like 25 years. So why should I have to always report to the police that I’m carrying to protect myself? CT law does not require the advisory to police on routine traffic stops.

  4. A traffic stop is based on specific training for police officers. After their approach they usually ask for Drivers License and registration. It is simple to just give the officer the CCW license with the other two requested documentation. Some states require this in their CCW law. When the Officer does a DL check, the CCW also shows. If you live in a state requiring this and you have not provided the CCW then you have violated the law. By presenting the CCW to the police officer, most will ask where the weapon is and then proceed with the reason for the stop. Your stop will not be the first time that the officer has encountered a CCW carrier. Most city, county and state law enforcement agencies probably or should have a general order or standard operating procedure for CCW contacts. CCW carriers have a responsibility to insure they conduct themselves correctly and must be comfortable with their concealed weapon. Bing nervous is not an option. CCW is a right restored. Good skill and stay safe!

  5. I am an LEO. The advice in the article is sound – just inform the LEO when you are first contacted. If you are doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about. Your weapon will most likely be secured during the stop – but that is for everyone’s safety. Be polite, courteous, and professional.

    1. As I retired LEO I call BS to your statement of “it’s for everybody’s safety”. If a permit holder hands me his license and permit, absent RAS, there is absolutely no reason for me to disarm him. In fact, doing so is unnessary handling of a firearm and is far more dangerous than just getting on with business. This whole “officer safety”, where permit holders are concerned is a red herring for to cover up the real problem; police officers not trusting law abiding citizens with guns and believing they should be the only ones trusted to be armed. I never had a problem with a permit holder on a traffic stop, ever, and never felt the need to disarm one.

  6. If your state is not a “duty to inform” then don’t inform the LEO. This whole “theory” of notifying the officer that your legally carrying to “calm” the situation is rubbish. Would you notify the officer that you just went to the grocery store to purchase eggs or that u are going to church? No, it is a lawful act, and is not any of their business.

    Also, them securing your weapon is another problem, most LEO have far less training and weapon familiarization than the person CCW. So they “secure” your firearm and now they have disarmed a citizen that has done nothing wrong, and its for “their” safety??? What about YOUR safety, how’s that working out for you now that you have been disarmed? You were “safe” before they showed up and pulled you over and disarmed you.

    Remember, if you are not being arrested, you cant talk yourself out of it.. All you can do is talk yourself into being arrested. “What you say can be used against you in a court of law”. LEO is not there to protect you or society nor is it their duty to, according to the SCOTUS; however that is what they want you to believe. They are there to enforce the law, that is why they pulled you over, you broke the law or they have RAS about a previous crime.

    Remember, you have the right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself. From the time you have encountered an LEO, they are trying to build RAS (reasonable articulable suspicion) if it is not there already, and are trying find out if you have committed/are about to commit a crime. SILENT cooperation is NOT “not cooperating”.

    The situation will dictate the proper course of action with the LEO, but remember, this entire article above is written toward the citizen that is “submissive to the power and authority of LEO” when generally it is wrong, unlawful, and violates your rights. They are counting on the average person not knowing their rights.. Hence the statements above about ” Cooperating with reasonable requests will ultimately ensure everyone is on their way as quickly as possible”: reasonable possibly, but is it lawful? LEO can request anything…that doesn’t make it a lawful request. keep that in mind.

    The bigger part of the picture and question is, which road do you want to travel down?

    The one where you could possibly get verbally abused, victimized, arrested, assaulted, detained, or even killed? Then notify the officer.

    The one where you are stopped given a ticket or “let go” and are about your way as if nothing happened? Don’t tell the LEO, and they will never be the wiser.

    They will discover the weapon on their own if the officer is performing/ conducting a proper “Terry Stop”.

    I do support our LEO FULLY and understand their tasks are daunting at the very minimum. I also support individual and constitutional rights. The problem is the very few in LEO that have given them a bad name. Equally, but probably more so at fault is the day to day people that the LEO have to deal with that have also skewed the LEO mindset to what it is.

    At the end of the day we all just want to go home and be with our families. That is what we all need to keep at heart and be reminded of during the “encounter”.

  7. I disagree, B. Asserting your rights during a traffic stop is rarely the wise thing to do. Don’t try to guess why the officer stopped you. Don’t tell him how to do his job. Don’t leave your weapon concealed on your person or within arm’s reach until the officer finds it as per Terry. This is not an article about Constitutional rights. This is about defusing an already tense situation and helping the officer conduct his duties in a safe and efficient manner.
    If you feel like your rights have been violated or that you were not treated professionally, you should certainly make a formal statement to the officer’s superiors. We (LEOs) know that some officers make more mistakes than others. The days of covering up for these officers or giving them the benefit of the doubt are swiftly coming to an end. This paradigm shift can be discussed in another forum.
    Rather, here’s a short script I recommend to my friends during a traffic stop or checkpoint inspection after the officer’s initial request for documentation:
    “Sir (or Ma’am), thanks for doing your job. Here are my license and registration and my weapon’s permit (if required). My loaded weapon is secured on my right hip (or wherever, be specific).” Previous advice about dome light on, windows down, all other occupants quiet with all hands visible, pets secured, etc., is excellent.
    Like R said, politely comply. Complain later.
    Remember that when the bad guys have a gun to your head, it may be the same officer sacrificing his life for yours… Not some Constitutional rights lawyer. A little understanding can go a long way.

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