The first thing you figure out as a Police Officer is there are no “normal” traffic stops. If you are a legal gun owner a traffic stop may not be “normal” either.
The most common way legal gun owners come into contact with Law Enforcement is a traffic stop and that is a topic we at USLS get asked about constantly.
As a former Police Officer, current Defensive Shooting Instructor, manufacturer of a unique concealed carry holster, as well as a guy who may have been pulled over while legally carrying a time or two Austin Davis has some tips and insight for you to help make the experience easier for both you and the officer.
How did this all start? You’re driving around, minding your own business, completely unaware of that police officer. The officer observes something, in their opinion, you did or did not do that is in violation of an infinite list of traffic violations the officer will initiate a traffic stop.
The First Steps of the Traffic Stops
After you see the lights and sirens and realize it’s you they’re after:
- Put on your emergency flashers.
- Pull over into a well-lit location out of the traffic flow.
- Put your car in park, and lower at least your front windows. If your car is heavily tinted lower your back windows as well.
- If it is at night turn on your overhead dome light.
- If easily accessible locate your ID and insurance info, if not, leave your hands on the steering wheel until the officer approaches.
As the officer approaches, remember we want to eliminate as many barriers to success (getting out of the ticket) as possible.
Don’t use it, even if you have a good joke like, when a regular dog sees a police dog, does he tell his friends watch out it’s a cop. Humor is at best an inefficient form of communication, and a traffic stop is a serious situation so leave the humor out of it.
Sarcasm does not build rapport, and there is zero chance you being sarcastic will help the situation.
Do not argue the merits of the stop on the side of the road during the traffic stop. The time for argument and discussion is when you have a lawyer present and a judge is present in the courtroom.
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How Do I Tell the Officer I Have a Firearm?
My advice would be to avoid the phrase “I gotta gun.” The word gun is a trigger word for officers. Another option is—I have a license to carry. Avoid the gun verbiage all together and pick your words very carefully when you have a firearm.
Once you notify the officer you are a legal gun owner and you have a firearm, they will choose three paths of action on what to make you do with the firearm.
- Let you keep it. Usually, if they let you keep it they’ll say something like if you don’t touch yours I won’t touch mine. If they do let you keep it, don’t adjust, don’t fiddle around, leave your hands on the steering wheel, and the process will go fine.
- Officer removes it. The officer will remove it for both your safety and his. If the officer wants to remove the firearm, ask the officer how he would like to handle it. They will ask you out of the car, you will put your hand on a fixed object, they will ask you the location of the firearm and will remove it from you. Just follow instructions and there will be no problems.
- You hand it to the officer. This is the most complicated of the three options. Ask the officer the specific steps you want to take to remove my firearm. Then tell them the facts, i.e. I’m wearing a seatbelt and the firearm is in an ankle holster, shoulder holster, appendix, etc… Then when the officer gives you their instructions, repeat them back, and narrate your actions as you move very slowly. If at any point the officer gives you any instructions you don’t understand, is counteractive to safety, or doesn’t make any sense, stop your motion and ask for clarity. If at all possible release the entire holster and hand it to the officer. If that is not possible remember keep your finger off the trigger and always point the firearm in a safe direction.
State Laws for Informing the Officer You have a Gun
The laws regarding if you have to inform an officer if you are carrying a firearm vary from state-to-state. Below are examples of some of the laws across the country. If you are unsure of the law in your state, call our non-emergency business line and speak to an Independent Program Attorney about the law in your state.
Texas – You have an obligation, if you are carrying a weapon, to hand the officer your LTC along with your driver’s license. There is currently no penalty on the books for failing to give the officer your LTC in this situation, but it is still good practice to do so, particularly if you want to avoid a very annoyed police officer.
Colorado – There is not a state law that requires you to identify that you have a firearm in your car, but there are some CCW that do require you to identify the presence of the gun in the vehicle. Check the law in the county your CCW was issued.
Florida – There is no duty to inform the officer you have a firearm in your vehicle unless the officer specifically asks you.
Georgia – There is no law that requires you to inform an officer that you are carrying a firearm. There is also no law that says you must hand over your weapons carry license, but there is a law preventing police officers from randomly asking you if you have a weapons carry license.
Missouri – The law does not require you to affirmatively tell the police officer that you have a concealed carry permit or a firearm with you.
Oklahoma – As a concealed carry license holder, the law requires you to inform the police officer that you are armed if you are armed. If you do not have a concealed carry license you are still required to inform the police officer you have weapons in the car if you have weapons in the car. Under the Self-Defense Act, the police do not have authority to disarm you unless they have probable cause to suspect a crime, other than a normal traffic violation, has been committed.
Pennsylvania – You are not required to tell police you have a firearm on your person or in the car.
Virginia – There is no requirement to inform the officer that you advise the officer that you have a concealed handgun permit or a weapon in the car. But if you are concealed handgun permit holder and carrying a firearm you are required to hand over the permit and a photo ID on demand.
What Do I Do When the Officer Hands My Firearm Back?
At the end of the process, hopefully they’re going to hand that firearm back. When the officer hands it back be very careful and only point the gun in a safe direction. Not only do you not want to put your finger on the trigger, but you want to avoid the entire trigger area. If they hand it back to you with the action open, or it’s a revolver with the cylinder out, leave the action open or the cylinder out. If they hand it back to you with either the action or the cylinder closed, do not do a check of your firearm to see if it has been reloaded. Put it in a safe place until you are free to go on your way. Once you and the officer are long gone you can pull over and either decide to empty the gun and reload or rearm.
If you have any other questions make a comment in the comment section below, or attend one of our seminars. Go to uslawshield.com/seminar to find a seminar in your area.
—Austin Davis, former police officer and President of Kangaroo Carry Holsters
Again, another great video. However, in this day and age, I don’t think I would do number three. I would tell the officer that I am uncomfortable even touching my weapon in the presence of police, I would prefer to keep my hands in the open, and would plead with him to let me get out of the car and let him disarm me. Maybe I’m too paranoid.
After you give the officer your drivers license and your LTC and if he ask for your weapon should you tell him or her that it is loaded and there is one in the chamber .I carry a glock 23 with a external safety on it and I always have one in the chamber.
Anything you determine that will increase your safety and reduce the risk to both you and the officer is a good idea.
Excellent advice. Three times I’ve been pulled over as a CHL Holder – I think these guys just like my car (NOT kidding – most Police Officers are “Car Guys” too, and a Shelby Cobra GT500 is an attention getter).
Anyway, polite!, CHL handed over with my with DL, very still hands on the wheel and never a scary moment for anyone.
All three thanked me for my Service AND for carrying. Little doubt who’s “side” I’d be on in the event of need, which we ALL Pray never comes.
As always. Very helpful. Also the written dialog and more info was very helpful especially about the other states laws.
That is one of the better instructive videos I have seen. Great advice.
I’ve been pulled over 3 times while armed, I ALWAYS inform the Officer that I’m carrying, where it is, that there’s a round in the chamber and has a full mag. Not a single time have I had a problem, and once I had to get my wallet from my purse with my holstered 9 laying on my wallet, still not a problem.
Having been on both sides I can say it’s a lot better when you say you have a weapon up front then having the officer find it later. But understand he only knows you have a weapon. That doesn’t mean you have suddenly become best buddies.
A question that I often think: what if I am a carrying as a passenger in a friend’s car? Would I be required to tell the officer that I am carrying?
In Texas, passengers should wait and see if the officers ask for their identification. If an officer asks for their identification in the course of their investigation, they must show their LTCs. This puts a higher duty on LTC holders than your average Joe Citizen in the passenger seat of a car who may not have to ID. Passengers should follow an officer’s requests throughout the traffic stop, just like the drive does.
If you have any more questions please don’t hesitate to reach out to us by calling the non-emergency business line found on the back of your member card.
In the 3 or 4 years that I’ve been carrying, I have never been pulled over or had the occasion to have to tell an officer that I am carrying. I’ve had, in my own mind, the best way to handle this situation should it occur and was glad to see that my thoughts were, at least, very close to what was discussed in the video.
I will definitely be sharing this video with others!
I’m an LTC holder in Texas. I’m also an African American male. Traffic Stop 101: I strongly suggest you expediantly gather your Driver License, License -to-carry, Insurance, and Registration documents prior to the officer arriving at your driver door (Too risky to fumble about searching for documents, and you have a firearm onboard). Announce you have a current LTC. Inform exactly where the firearm is located, and then very calmly ask how they would like you to proceed. NEVER, EVER, EVER,EVER, get talked into reaching for your weapon to hand to the officer. ALWAYS ask to step out of the vehicle, and to be voluntarily handcuffed (If it makes the officer feel better… you want to make it out alive). Let him/her retrieve your weapon, NOT YOU!!!! NEVER YOU! Keep eye contact with officer. We (Black Males) are always nervous when stopped. I’m talking about law abiding black men. You must remain calm, and hopefully this calm demeanor will keep the officer calm too (MAYBE). I wish Philando Castile would have used this behavioral approach. This is NOT a time for egos or mistakes, just make it out of the damn traffic stop alive, vs. gunned down and murdered by police in the streets.
Amen !!! Totally agree with everything said . It’s still the same TODAY in 2022, if not a tad bit worse .
If I have a gun in the glove box or under the seat and No license to carry, if pulled over do I have to tell the officer about the gun?
The Texas LAW says you can legally carry guns,rifles,shotguns in a vehicle,PERIOD.
Then why you have to give the officer your DL & Gun license, if it’s not required by the LAW in Texas???
Texas law does indeed allow you to carry a loaded firearm in your vehicle without a valid CHL; provided that you are the owner of the firearm, an authorized operator of the vehicle, and that the weapon is not in plain view, on your person or otherwise.
That is the law. The law matters little if you get shot by an overzealous officer. Castile’s slaying is a horrific example of this. While it is not necessarily your legal obligation, I feel that it is still in your best interest to overtly disclose and calmly comply, as this video advises. Cops don’t like surprises.
I have a Virginia Concealed Handgun Permit (non-resident, though was resident at one point), which Texas reciprocates. Am I legally obligated to handover my Virginia permit as well as my Texas drivers license?
I have had a similar exsperience and incident as the above subject and questions with similar interests as all proper steps and procedures where taken all the way through where the fire arms was giving back with propersteps as shown or mentioned as actions necessary to do so.. my concerns or regards is this the occupant other than the car owner was a passanger in vehicle at the time of incodent happen to be a felon out on poral unaware of fire arms even in the vehicle at time was pulled over and charged do to viliotion of a feleon in possession of a firearm with a former AFCF just for being in vehilcle do so… What right or requirements does one have where can we start or is there any options that one has with such???
I got stopped by a DPS this weekend for no front license plate. I didn’t have a gun on me or in the car. So I didn’t present my LTC. When the officer came back with a warning they said I had to present my LTC when getting stopped.
Do you have to present it even when you are not carrying?
With the new constitutional carry law in Texas do you have an obligation to tell an officer that you have a fire arm on you
I am a current LTC holder. If I am pulled over, am I required to disclose that I have an unloaded weapon in the trunk of my car? Or is disclosure required only for weapons in the passenger area of the vehicle?
I am never surrendering my personal property to anyone that merely asks for it. It is my duty to keep my personal firearm secured and I will be doing that. I am never required during a traffic stop to answer any questions that do not pertain to the stop itself. Police agencies are private entities that have no jurisdiction or autonomy over your person.