The Top Priority When Dealing With Guns and Cops is Safety
So you’ve been pulled over by the cops — and you have a gun in your car. It doesn’t matter right now why the officer wants to talk to you. What’s important is that you’re carrying a weapon, and you need to make sure that doesn’t spark a dangerous misunderstanding.
To Speak up or Not to Speak Up
Some people say that you should avoid surprises by telling the officer about your gun(s) as soon as possible. The trick is doing this in a way that avoids escalating the situation. Keep your hands visible and your voice calm. Say something like “Officer, I have no intention of reaching for anything, but I want to let you know that I have a handgun in the glove box.”
Different states put different obligations on gun owners caught in a traffic stop. In some states, the law says you have to inform the cop immediately whether it’s on your person or in the car. In others, you only have to tell them if it’s on your person, and in still others, you don’t have to tell them at all. So you should know the law in your state before you transport a firearm–even legally. The NRA offers some information about interstate transportation of firearms and the more extreme laws in various states in this article on gun laws.
How To Keep It Calm
Keep your encounter safe by acting and speaking in a non-threatening way. Make sure your hands stay visible — leave them on the steering wheel if you can. Don’t make any sudden, unexpected moves. If you need to reach into your pocket — or anywhere else, like the glove box — announce it first and ask for the officer’s permission to reach for your documents. That’s especially important if your hand’s going to be near a weapon. If you reach for the glove box, and it opens to reveal a handgun the cop didn’t know about, they may be likely to draw on you.
Some people will stick to the letter of the law and only tell the cop the bare minimum they’re required to. That’s a principled position, but is it the safest and best one to take? That’s a personal decision.
What If the Traffic Stop Isn’t Fair?
Maybe you feel you’re being unfairly harassed by being stopped — and maybe you’re right. It’s an unfortunate fact that some racial and ethnic groups are more likely to face random stops. If you’re annoyed about that, you have cause to be, but an encounter with an armed officer at a traffic stop isn’t the place to make a stand, especially with a weapon in the car. Just be cooperative, and if you feel you weren’t treated fairly, make a complaint later.
What do we think? Safety first. Research the laws in your state and think about how you will handle being stopped with a weapon in advance. Be ready to act calmly, safely and confidently.