Unless you’re new to conceal carrying you’ve no doubt discussed, or experienced first hand, how to interact with police when you’re strapped. The general consensus is, if you keep your hands in view at all times, relax, and respectfully comply, you’ll be fine. And coming from a Police Officer who routinely interacts with people carrying guns, that’s pretty much it. But what if things go differently?
“What was the Officer thinking?” “Why did they temporarily take my firearm?” “Why are they asking these questions?” “Why did the Officer act the way they did?” “I’m just a responsible law abiding citizen!”
I’m going to do my best to answer these kinds of questions. State laws, local 2A attitudes, and the Officer’s experience/training (or lack thereof) largely influence how a police interaction will go.
The Ideal Interaction
The majority of my interactions with citizens go something like this:
- Me: “How’s it going today?”
- You: “I’m fine thanks.”
- Me: [asks for id/other info pertinent to the legal encounter]
- You: “Okay. I just think you should know, I have a gun [insert location] and I’m a concealed carrier.”
- Me: “Thanks for letting me know. What are you carrying?”
- You: “[insert firearm make and model]”
- Me: “Cool. How you liking it?”
- You: “[insert positive or negative comment about said firearm].
I want to make it clear that every Officer has their own way of approaching certain situations. Like it or not, their personal experiences, training, and political or personal beliefs will influence their decision making.
Now let’s talk about why the majority of my interactions go this way and why others might go differently.
Obviously these will vary from State to State. The most important consideration from both parties perspective is – “Are you legally in possession of/carrying that firearm?” If the answer is yes, then neither of us has anything to worry about. The next important consideration should be “Do you have a duty to inform when conceal carrying?” If the answer is yes, then obviously comply. If the answer is “When asked”, well then it’s up to you to volunteer the information or not and it’s up to the Officer to inquire.
My state is a “When Asked” state. I’d say about 50% of the conceal carriers I communicate with volunteer the information to me and the other 50% don’t. I never ask for that information. But, when a concealed carrier does volunteer the fact that they’re packing, my response normally goes something like: “Thank you. You actually don’t have a duty to inform here, but I appreciate you telling me.” And from there I ask about what they’re carrying or just finish up with what we’re doing.
This pertains to attitudes towards law enforcement, attitudes towards exercising your 2nd Amendment rights, and local law enforcement’s attitudes towards citizens and guns.
I’m lucky. I live in a pro law enforcement, pro 2nd amendment, and pro citizen carry community. Not every responsible citizen or Police Officer will be this fortunate.
Because I live in a very gun friendly area, I’m frequently involved in traffic stops where the driver has a rifle or unloaded handgun in the front of the cab. When this happens, my only concern is whether or not they are legally doing so and if they pose a threat to me, themselves, or others (which is almost always NO).
Whether you’re a Police Officer, Dentist, or Insurance Agent, profiling is a facet of everyday life. It’s just what we do to size people up and try to understand who we might be dealing with.
Consider the following: what kind of vehicle do you drive? What condition is it in? What kind of stickers does it have, if any? What are you wearing? What kind of tattoos do you have? How many passengers/people do you have with you? What time of day is it? What environment are you in? And – most importantly – What is the reason for the interaction?
There are a thousand other considerations, and these aren’t things you necessarily need to be cautious of, but they factor into the Officer’s decision making and attitude throughout their interaction with you.
In the thousands of traffic stops I’ve made, I’ve only once temporarily detained a conceal carrier’s firearm. Here are the details:
It was a traffic stop for running a stop sign. The vehicle had illegal window tint. The driver had a baggy shirt and sunglasses on (even though it was overcast). His girlfriend in the passenger seat refused to make eye contact with anyone. When I asked for his vehicle information, he reached for the glove box, and then shot back explaining “I forgot I have my gun in the glove box.”
I politely asked if he’d be okay with me reaching into the vehicle, opening the glove box, and temporarily holding onto the firearm. He said that’d be okay. That was the end of it. A few minutes later he received a written warning and got his firearm back.
Other Officer’s Opinions
I was fortunate enough to get some more input from Officers in different departments and states and with varying experiences and time on the job.
From the more seasoned veterans I gathered that temporary detainment of a firearm wasn’t uncommon. That being said, concealed carry used to more uncommon and there wasn’t any training/discussion amongst officers on the topic. Things have since changed.
Although there were some differing opinions on current 2A discussions, such as background checks, permits vs permitless, and training, every officer I spoke to expressed a pro 2A attitude.
Furthermore, every officer I spoke to expressed that training and practice (as a peace officer and as a citizen) should be a committed, continual process of evolution and skill building. The likelihood of police AND good guys being at the scene of a violent incident is increasing and should be frequently considered. But that’s a topic for another day.
I can’t stress enough that I don’t speak for every Cop on every beat. As far as I’m aware, most cops I know want people to legally carry and will actively support your right to do so.
There are some who probably drink too much of the “kool-aid” and some others who, unfortunately, have no business being in uniform, but most of us are simply trying to do our job – protect and serve.
If you’ve had a negative experience with police while legally carrying in the past, hopefully this sheds some light on what influences our actions. Don’t take it personally. At the end of the day, we are all on the same team.