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The Blue Brief: How to Handle Traffic Stops While Carrying

Our resident LE expert walks you through what to do if you're stopped by police while concealed carrying or with a firearm in your car.

You’re driving along, having a great day, and then…you see a flash of red and blue lights in the rearview.

Uh oh. As you pull to the shoulder of the road, you realize…you’re carrying your firearm.

Police Car Lights
Police Car Lights Blue Brief

Maybe it’s holstered in your waistband or lying on the floor of the vehicle because it was a busy morning, and you didn’t have the time to properly put it in a secured holster…

Yes, I have seen that on a traffic stop, and yes, it was the excuse I got when asked about why it was lying on the floor in the passenger area of the vehicle. 

Car Safes

But in all seriousness, how should you interact with police if you’ve been over as a concealed carrier?

Glad you asked. I will run you through the ins and outs of police stops and what to expect while CCWing.

So, follow along, so you know how to handle that situation.

Table of Contents

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First Step…Breathe

First, take a deep breath because you’re going to be ok. 

I know it can be a tad stressful to be stopped by law enforcement, but I promise if you can relax, the officer will too. 

Being pulled over is kind of scary. The questions running through your mind probably race faster than the speed violation you were stopped for.

The officer should know and understand that you may be a little on edge.

What to Do

When I am teaching concealed carry classes, this topic always comes up, and when it does, this is always my advice.

Keep your hands on the steering wheel until the officer approaches.

Carjacking
Best to keep your hands on the wheel and visible.

They will most likely tell you the reason behind the stop and ask for your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. 

No big deal so far, right? The officer may even engage in a small conversation with you, again do not panic. 

Do you tell the officer you have a gun in the vehicle or on you right away?

That depends largely on your state and whether the law requires that you notify officers of firearms.

If you advise the officer, don’t let stress and panic dictate your voice. What you believe in your mind sounds calm, cool, and collective under stress is a bellowing yell or a sudden gesture that could set off the “Red Alert” button in the officer’s mind. 

Calm Cool Collected

Again, remain calm.

If you have a concealed weapons permit, hand that over along with your other information, and it will open up the dialogue.

The officer may ask you additional questions like where the firearm is located and follow any directions they give you.

Officer writing a police report
Officer writing a police report

As I tell my students, the side of the road is not the place to argue, even if you are right. 

If the officer is out of line for some reason, you can file a complaint with their immediate supervisor.

Can Police Take My Gun?

The officer does have the right to temporarily disarm you for their safety. By that, they call in your information, take your weapon, and clear it to make it safe. 

Clearing refers to removing the magazine and any ammunition from the firearm.

They may take the weapon and run the serial number to ensure it’s not stolen.

After the stop is concluded, assuming you didn’t steal the gun, it should be returned to you.

Additional Considerations

Each state has different laws regarding carrying a firearm in a car, duty to inform officers, and what’s okay and not when it comes to guns.

Do the research!

If you are unsure of your local firearms laws or plan to travel, I recommend doing a little research to know the applicable laws.

The Traveler’s Guide to the Firearms Laws of the 50 States is a great resource that is updated every year and helps guide you through each state’s laws.

Conclusion

I don’t think I can state it enough, but if police stop you, remember to stay calm. If you, be reasonable when making decisions, use common sense and good judgment.

Womens Concealed Carry IWB

Doing that will make your interaction a lot smoother and ultimately put everyone at ease.

Have you ever been pulled over by police while carrying? Let us know about your experience in the comments below. For more LE-related topics, check out more articles from The Blue Brief.

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12 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Greg McKillip

    Pulled over for expired tabs while carrying by WASP. Officer asked the usual. Greeted officer in a friendly manner doesn’t hurt and can buy you a lot. Told officer I am a ccw holder and carrying while keeping my hands on the wheel and how he wanted to proceed. He thanked me for telling him and trusted me with document retrieval along with my ccw license. Brief return to his vehicle and returned with documents and a surprising “thanks” for carrying and no citation. Took a multi-state AZ/OR ccw class given by a WASP years ago and his life was saved by a ccw civilian who came to his aid when a stop went south. He relayed that he and his fellow officers have never ticketed a reasonable stopped citizen who was legally carrying… Again, calm politeness costs nothing and can buy you a lot!

    December 31, 2021 10:08 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Cap

      Greg,
      I personally have had this happen to me. You never know what you're up against when you stop someone and thing turn south and a citizen is able to stand watch over you until your back ups arrives. Being a rural police officer it is truly a blessing. I personally would like to thank you and everyone else who carries and keeps their families and our officers safe.
      -Cap-

      January 3, 2022 9:40 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    D Stallard

    As I was driving on the interstate through Indiana, from Ohio, I was pulled over in a construction zone, along with 10 other vehicles(all from out of state), no ticket was given, nor an offense stated for us being stopped! Ind. SHP officers were checking us all for weapons in our vehicles, and I was legally carrying 2 handguns in my car. After they had taken both of them to their cruiser; 20 min later, they were returned in 4 zip lock baggies, both guns were completely broken down, distributed throughout all 4 bags with both different caliber ammo of the guns, parts all intermixed of both guns! They then told us we had to drive off and had to reassemble them later! Remember, we weren't cited for anything or told a reasonable reason for even being stopped! I had to pull over a mile down the road to reassemble and reload both handguns that I was legally carrying! Apologies from the Ind SHP came only after my atty threatened legal repercussions! They admitted their officers overstepped their authority and MAY have targeted out of state drivers.

    December 28, 2021 3:42 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Cap

      D,
      I would have to agree with your attorney on this as well. To make a stop with zero reason seems unorthodox. I do not have an answer as to why they broke down your firearms completely and then handed them back to you in ziplock baggies. To me that seems a bit odd based on what I read. I apologize for your experience and glad you had legal representation to aid you. I believe some people would not have made any thought to this practice and would have just gone about their merry way without a thought. I am under the see it say it motto, if officers act out of line, again the side of the road is not the place to make your opinion known, get a card from them and file a complaint.
      -Cap-

      January 3, 2022 9:36 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Charles

    This article isnt helpful and I notice that its a common problem in articles and videos to never get to the heart of the question. Why is that? Im law abiding, perfect credit and driving record, never incarcerated. I own 20 guns and they are in storage. Its been 5 years since Ive seen them and so I go and collect them, into the trunk and drive them home for cleaning and checking. Im pulled over, I dont know why, and after giving my lic and reg, the cop asks if I have any weapons. If I say yes, he will want to see them. I open the truck and he sees an arsenal (but no ammo, lets say). He detains me in cuffs while he further checks or calls for backup. Im arrested "because nobody should have 20 guns, somethings wrong" premise. If I say I dont have any weapons, he will ask to check. Let him and be proved a liar, now arrested for that, or deny him on the basis that his probable cause in pulling me over couldnt have been about guns and then the scene escalates because Im denying a search and now he calls for dogs and backup? What to do in such a case? My point is that articles dont address situations like this and saying "stay calm" doesnt cut it. Some videos simply say to shuttup and then you are praying the cop doesnt escalate based on your non-cooperation. LEGALLY and PROPERLY carrying can still get you arrest, lawyers and court and who knows if you ever see your guns again but articles skip over all this and are largely useless. I wish someone who knows would really answer. You are not CCW, a legal rifle in the trunk properly locked up. Cop asks if you have any weapons. How to answer in a non-combative, non-"sovereign citizen" BS kind of way and be able to get on down the road?

    December 28, 2021 3:19 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Cap

      Charles,
      When you say in storage do you mean they are off your property and in a separate location? If you are stopped you do not have to make any statements if you so chose, that is your right protected by the constitution. If you are stopped for any reason, you are required to present if asked your documents to drive, not travel, but drive on any public roadway. If you are asked for consent to search, you have every right to deny such search under the 4th amendment. If you are searched and they find 20 rifles and no ammo, logically you can make a good argument as to why you are taking them home to clean. I was not trying to dumb this article down but it is for concealed carry what I had written. Now carrying 20 rifles to be cleaned may seem a bit odd in todays society but there is nothing wrong with it. This is why I had said not to argue on the side of the roadway. If you feel the conduct of the officer(s) was out of line, you have every right to file a complaint and or hire an Attorney to represent you in any wrong doings that you feel was a violation of your constitutional rights. Not to argue what you had stated, I see what you mean and understand your concern.
      -Cap-

      January 3, 2022 9:28 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Rick Thomas

    I was pulled over by the PA State Police, I beeped both ends on the wheel until he was at the car window. I gave him my permit along with DL and Insurance Card he looked at and handed it right back to me with no further questions. I was Brock down on I81 and the PASP stopped and asked for ID I gave him what he ask for along with my permit and looked at ask me where it was I told him and we had a nice conversation while I waited for assistance. My home alarm went off and the PASP have been dispatched once while we were at home due to an error in the Security Co and I answered the door armed informed the officer and explained that I was going to secure it before answered his questions s to why they were dispatched. Another time the alarm went off and we were not home and the arrived just as we did and when the PASP called me I informed them I was armed the officer and I had a very nice concretion about firamrns and the shooting sports.

    December 28, 2021 1:24 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Cap

      Rick,
      Sometimes those pesky alarms are a blessing in disguise. I am happy to read your experience was positive as well. Most police officers are truly there to protect your rights and are human enough to understand the situation without going overboard. Thank you again for sharing. -Cap-

      January 3, 2022 9:19 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Kelley T. Bulgin

    I was pulled over for doing 10 over the speed limit on a country road in a late model mustang GT. I was headed back home after a fairly exhausting backpacking trip. I had my wallet with ID and carry permit in the trunk-in my backpack along with my loaded firearm. I did keep both hands on the wheel and I did remain calm. I was very tired and just wanted to get home to a hot shower and some rest. But whenever there are firearms around I'm in the mindset of being very polite and in a non confrontational state of de-escalation as far as it is within my power. In my State, it's common for people to own and carry firearms. And a long time ago I did a stint as a deputy Sherriff and I well know what these guys have to put up with. After the officer asked me why I thought I'd been pulled over and I readily admitted it was for speeding, I informed him that I was coming home from a rough backpacking trip and my documentation was in the trunk in my backpack along with a firearm. I then just simply said, "How would you like me to proceed?" And I then carefully and respectfully followed his instructions. It was as simple as that and he ended up letting me go with a warning. I realize that sometimes it isn't always easy to be polite. I once had an officer pull me over and he kept calling me, "son" despite the fact that I likely was 10 years his senior, and yet in far better physical condition than he was. Always, always be polite. The side of the road is no place to cultivate your indignation.

    December 27, 2021 12:39 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Cap

      Kelly,
      Thank you for sharing your experience with everyone. I am happy to have read the outcome was positive. As far as the officer calling you, "Son." It could just be a habit because maybe he was nervous as well. We all may seem cool calm and collective on the outside, but you never know what call he or she had prior to the traffic stop. Just a thought.
      -Cap-

      January 3, 2022 9:15 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Kelley T. Bulgin

        Whatever reason the officer had for addressing me as, "son" it was a bad one. But it's worth mentioning that I maintained a polite civility and on this 2nd occasion the officer also did not ticket me for speeding (which I was). I kissed the ring so to speak. He too, let me off with a warning.

        January 5, 2022 4:37 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    LCpl Mike

    A LEO friend of mine says that "If you (assuming a reasonable law abiding citizen) keep yours holsters they will do the same". Keep calm and show them respect, they want to get home to their families at the end of their shift. And as a LEO'S kid, that's what we want too.

    December 27, 2021 11:33 am
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