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.

Regardless 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.

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.

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.

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.

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