Most of us have probably gotten a speeding ticket or have been involved in a small auto-accident at least once in our lives. For the responsibly armed citizen, these moments require a bit of thought beforehand and a routine to make things easier for ourselves and the police officer with whom we are interacting.
Realize, each state has different laws regarding “duty to inform”, which govern the interactions between responsibly armed citizens and the police. In my home state of Kentucky, there is no duty to inform an officer if you are armed. Across the border in Ohio, you must immediately inform the officer if you are carrying a concealed handgun. Realize that it is your responsibility to know the laws in any state in which you travel.
(handgunlaw.us is a great resource for learning each states firearm laws)
Even though there is no duty to inform in my home state, I have a routine for informing officers I am a responsibly armed citizen.
Here’s a few things you should know before we iron out a routine for interacting with police officer while armed.
- In your home state, it is quite likely your concealed carry license has been linked to the license plate numbers of any car registered in your name. While you are in your home state, the officer is going to look up your car’s plates, find out that you have a concealed carry license and then assume that you are currently armed.
- The vast majority of police officers are pro-concealed carry. There is a very strong correlation between increased concealed carrying citizens and decreases in violent crime with localities. Having responsibly armed citizens leads to safer communities for ourselves and the police officers who are helping to keep our communities safe.
Here is my routine:
First, if I am in my car, and I see the flashing lights of a patrol car behind me, I will immediately turn on my emergency flashers and slow my speed.
I try to pull over to the safest possible place for the officer (too many officers are injured or killed performing their duties on busy highways). If possible, I will try to get off a main thoroughfare and onto a side street or in a parking lot. Then I will roll down the driver’s side window of the car and turn on the overhead light if it is night time.
As long as it is not the dead heat of the summer or freezing cold of the winter, I will turn off the car and place the keys on the dashboard. This lets the officer know that I am not a flight risk, and will hopefully help to put the officer at ease. When the officer approaches my window, I make sure my hands are both on the steering wheel and in plain sight.
Here is the script I have prepared to say to the officer:
“Good day officer… I need to inform you that I am a licensed concealed carrier. I am (or am not) carrying a concealed weapon at this time. It is located at _______________ (for me this is usually 1 o’clock or appendix carry). Do you have any specific instructions for me?”.
Comically, most officers I know, if you tell them you have a concealed carry license but you are not carrying your handgun, they will ask, “Why Not?”.
At this time, the officer will tell you what you need to do to make sure both of you remain safe and there are no misconstrued actions.
A couple of things to think about during this process…
- If you are carrying behind your hip (4 o’clock for right handers) and your wallet with your concealed carry license and driver’s license is in your back, right pocket, you need to inform the officer and ask for instructions before getting your wallet. This goes the same for ladies who carry a concealed firearm in their purse. The officer will want to watch your motions intently.
- You should never store your firearm in the same place you keep your registration and proof of insurance. When the officer asks for your insurance and registration, and you open the glove box and there is a loaded pistol there, that will immediately put the officer on edge if you have not already informed him that the gun is there.
- Whatever you do… keep your hands away from your handgun during this encounter. When in doubt ask the officer for instructions.
- In many states, the officer has the right to disarm you during this encounter. Leave the ego at the door. The officer is only following a procedure to keep both of you safe.
Remember, just like you want to get home safe to your family, so does the police officer with whom you are interacting. Being polite and respectful, informing the officer you are carrying and avoiding touching your weapon during the interaction will help ensure your interaction is a safe one.