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.
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 – In 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.
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.
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
I travel, by car, from Florida to Virginia a couple times a year to a second home in Virginia. What are the laws informing an officer, during a traffic stop, in North and South Carolina that I’m carrying a concealed weapon?
Thank you for your comment Bryon. In both North and South Carolina, you must inform an officer if you are carrying concealed. If you have any other questions, please call our business line on the back of your member card, and one of our Independent Program Attorneys will be happy to answer your questions.
In fla,I immediately tell the officer that I’m letting him know that I have a ccp and it’s on me or In my console. Every time they have said thank you for telling me that and have never asked for it.
Help the guy out. They deal with enough BS from all of the innocent “I’m being profiled” group.
Well said sir. I recently moved to Florida from Texas, so I always advise LEO of my ccp . It’s just plain decency.
I’m living in Florida but Don’t have my Permit yet. I was told i can carry in my car but a Police Officer here said if i carry in my car there has to be 3 steps to do before i can use my gun. EXAMPLE: Gun without magizine in 1 place, magazine in another place, so I have to get the gun out of
wherever it is, get the mag from wherever it is then put the mag in the gun, but the Attorney for Florida said that is not correct, that I can carry the gun with the loaded mag in the gun. So, if I get pulled over in Florida without a Permit, do I have to let the officer know I have a firearm in my car? Thank You!! Also, please verify that i can carry in my car with the firearm loaded in Florida, without having a permit. Thank You!!
Attorney here. That is absolutely incorrect trash, and that police officer should stick to writing parking tickets. You may lookup FL statutes for yourself, and learn that FL makes no distinction between a loaded and unloaded firearm. ALWAYS ALWAYS always carry a self-defense firearm loaded, and with a loaded chamber – an empty chamber is known as a “dead man’s gun,” and for good reason. Someone will show you an Israeli police training video to the contrary, and the rest of the 99% of the world will commence to roll eyes.
In Florida, there is no “3-step” process, ever. Statute says “securely encased, and not in plain view.” That means anything with a lid that closes, and removes the firearm from plain view. Statute also has examples, just google it and look.
in fla got pulled over with all dark tinted windows after putting on flashers and opening all windows knowing i am carrying a legal fire arm i not only put my hands on steering wheel , i advised my wife to do the same when asked by the officer for my drivers license reg and insurance card i advised him that my identification was in my left front pocket and if ok may i reach for it he said yes and i handed him my drivers license and carry permit i was asked if i had the fire arm on my possession and responded yes and its location that set the playing field that i advised the officer calmly with precise location he said thanks and asked keep hands on wheel and my wife to keep them on the dash board before i reached to glove compartment i asked if it was ok to get the reg and insurance card from glove compartment which was granted he then stated just keep hands where i asked and went to his vehicle to check me out on the radio he then returned and handed me back my identification and said slow down as i was clocked doing ten miles per hour over the limit i said thank you and he stated same even though i have no responsibility in fla to advise the officer i truly believe it was in best interest for both to do so only a warning sure beats a moving violation !!!!!!
I carry every day in Florida, in my car and person. I have a CCP. I am under no responsibility to report to anyone, including the police I have a weapon in my vehicle. I have a Virginia CCP also. I once told a Virginia Highway patrol officer I was carrying. He gave me a look and said “so?” The ‘Ole Dominion’, an open carry state, is a hoot!
I’m curious why we need open carry laws? The 2nd Amendment already gives us that right (keep and bear arms).
@Angie yes you can carry it loaded in your vehicle. There isn’t a “3 step” rule. It has to securely encased. So having it in a snapped/secured holster, glove box, or console that closes meets that definition.
For your other question, it is answered above. Here it is for you:
Florida – There is no duty to inform the officer you have a firearm in your vehicle UNLESS the officer specifically asks you.
I capitalized the very important part that most forget or leave out.
In FL, after the law enforcement officer finds out you have a Concealed Weapon (whether you told them or they asked) during a traffic stop, are you then by law required to give them the concealed weapon if they ask for it? If so, what FL statute or Law does that reside under?
That’s good to know that you should let a police officer know that you have a concealed carry on you. I would think that you would have to do it carefully though. If you did it the wrong way it could sound like a threat.
I was gifted a handgun. I am 23 in Florida and was wondering what the process is or what happens if I am pulled over with the handgun. There is no gun registry here so not sure how the process would work.
#1 safety rule:
It’s safer when dealing with ‘officers’
Yes, Mr Valente, white people have it made! Nationwide, statistics show that only one white person received a traffic citation in 2020, 93% of all white people won the lottery (the other 7% are gifted similar amount from the government), IF they ever get cancer they just ask their doctor to make it go away, every April 15th the IRS sends them their share of the tax revenue, on their 18th birthday they are given 1 car, 1 primary residence and 1 vacation home (they get their computer, cell phone and 55 inch TV on their 12th birthday).
Just dont be up to any BS or play any games. I dont like police becuase they always seem to be running around attempting to shake down people for money.
But the fact is that its best to just tell them you have a firearm in the vehicle but its in a locked compartment or enclosed and out of your reach and that youa re just givng a heads up.
Only worry I have is that they will try to take the firearm and then you will be forced to go through time and expense to get it back. Its happened to people before. I would respect police a lot more if they didnt act so corrupt. Even if you are not a criminal and just an average working Joe they tend to escalate a traffic stop to a search and then hold you up for half an hour meanwhile actual criminals run wild.
Lets not pretend police dont get briefed before their shift on revenue generation.
I can write a whole book about this issue & how ” SOME ” OFFICERS approaches a casual traffic stop!
As a retired captain w/22 yrs. of service in CORRECTIONS & dealing w/thousands criminals,
The 1st. Rule is about respect!, 2nd. Rule is about to ask yourself is,
DO I HAVE THE COJONES TO DO THIS JOB & DEAL W/ WHAT’S COMES W/IT? ( IF UR AFRAID BUY A DOG OR GET OUT!) Treat CIVILIANS w/ respect ( don’t immediately ” ASSUME ” ur dealing w/ a CRIMINAL & call for half dozen backup! DON’T ESCALATED the situation! ( UR THE SO CALL PROFESSIONAL W/ TRAINING TO DEAL W/ THIS SITUATIONS!
( YES, AT THE END OF THE DAY, ” WE BOTH WANTED TO GO HOME TO OUR WIFES KIDS , BROTHERS/ SISTERS & FATHERS / MOTHER’S!
I’M ALL PRO LEO BUT A LOT OF CHANGES HAVE TO BE MAKE IN ORDER TO CHANGE THE PRESENT ( “SOME” ) POLICE BEHAVIOR! THIS CHANGES NEED TO BEGIN DURING HIRING, PROPER SCREENING & BY REPLACING TRAINING OFFICERS & FINALLY
TO MAKE IT CRISTAL CLEAR THAT THE POLICE DEPARTMENT NATION WIDE IT’S NOT A MILITARY AGENCY BUT A PARAMILITARY AGENCY TO SERVE & PROTECT US,
” THE CIVILIANS ” OF THIS GREAT COUNTRY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!
Austin, is your comment concerning Florida accurate:
“Florida – There is no duty to inform the officer you have a firearm in your vehicle unless the officer specifically asks you.”
My understanding is that Florida law only addresses the CWP: If I have a CWP, I am obligated to inform the officer I have a CWP IF asked. If I am also armed I must also produce the CWP if asked, or face a civil fine.
and is silent with respect to a question about being armed.
If you have a LEGAL gun in your car and you don’t want to deal with the issue, can you lie and say you don’t have a gun? Will you get arrested or a ticket if you lie and say you don’t have a gun in the car that you have a LEGAL carry permit for?