What to Do—and What NOT to Do—If You Are Pulled Over While Carrying a Gun

There is a protocol to follow to let an officer know you are friend, not foe, even though you are armed.

If you’ve never been pulled over by law enforcement for a moving violation, you are either extraordinarily law-abiding, don’t drive often, or are just plain lucky.

For those of us who have witnessed the swirling red and blue lights of a police vehicle in the rearview mirror—sometimes coupled with the “whoop!” of a siren—there is immediate impending dread. The adrenaline surge is usually accompanied by a “What did I do?!” as you take a quick glance at your speedometer. And if you weren’t speeding, your frantic state mind turns to a potential broken taillight infraction or the many unpaid parking tickets that are going to show up when the officer runs your tags …

Most of us who took driver’s education as part of our high school curriculum (yes, it used to be an elective once upon a time), were also taught how to behave when an officer approaches: window rolled down; hands at 10 and 2; speak only when spoken to; be polite and, for girls … try not to cry, no matter how much you think it will get you out of a ticket.

All of those societal rules still apply if you are pulled over. But if you are licensed to carry concealed, the added element of a firearm elevates the scenario. Are you obligated to tell the officer you have a firearm on your person or in your car? And if your state doesn’t require you to disclose it, should you anyway? And if you decide to disclose, there is a protocol that you should follow to prevent the officer from becoming very nervous about you and your loaded firearm.

Remember, the officer doesn’t automatically know that you are a decent human. Humor, sarcasm or arrogance will not be on your side in this situation. One of the most dangerous acts officers perform during their daily routine is pulling over a driver to issue a citation, so you don’t want to give them any reason to doubt your intentions.

That is why, for example, no matter how well-intentioned the notion, you don’t suddenly announce to the officer, “I have a gun.” At least not like that. And you don’t reach for it to show him where it is. Ever. It likely will not end well for you. Wait for the officer to instruct you on what to do.

I’m about to become a new concealed-carry holder, thanks to the recent SCOTUS decision that changed the rules in my home state. I know there will be times when I will be driving with my loaded firearm, and I don’t want any misunderstandings if I am pulled over by law enforcement.

The good news is that thanks to watching this video by the renowned Massad Ayoob and Wilson Combat, I have a better idea of how to conduct myself to let law enforcement know that I am friend, not foe, even though I am armed. While you definitely need to check your state laws on what is required of you if you are pulled over while you are carrying a firearm, this video is an excellent primer, offering extremely useful techniques on how to best handle oneself in this situation. Learn from it and be safe.

—Ann Y. Smith, Editor in Chief

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