While it's true that citizens with a concealed carry permit are some of the most law abiding in the nation, we all make mistakes. If you carry every day, you will probably be pulled over by police at some point while your firearm is in the vehicle. What is the best way to keep yourself and the officer safe? Here are three tips from Defense In Depth General Manager Nick DeMedici, who served as a sheriff and state trooper for a decade.
Nick says that the most important thing to keep in mind is your hands. Even if the gun is somewhere visible, like tucked in between the seat and center console, don't touch it during any part of the process, including before the car comes to rest.
"If you're stopped, keep your hands on the steering wheel or the dashboard," Nick says. "Leave it exactly where it is. As an officer, the first thing you look for is hands. If you're hands are visibly on the steering wheel, to me and most officers, that is going to be a sign of non-aggression.
2. Politely Inform
The first thing you do, whether in response to the officer's greeting or as the officer approaches, is let the officer know about the firearm.
"Advise the office on approach that you're a concealed weapon holder, and where it is — on your hip, in the glovebox, wherever. If someone is going to tell me they have their gun, chances are that they're probably not going to try to hurt me with it."
3. Be Prepared to Follow Instruction
"There's no manual for the officer with steps on how to proceed when you walk up on a car with a gun in it," Nick says. Each officer is different, and they have some discretion at that point how to proceed.
Nick says that in West Virginia, it's not a situation that usually puts officers on edge, because so many people carry firearms. (Other states might be a different story.) Nevertheless, be prepared to do whatever the officer requests of you to feel safe.
"It's hard when you're writing a ticket to watch what's going on inside the car. So, when I was going to write a ticket while the gun was accessible, I would have them step out to the back of the car while I sat in my car writing the ticket. Just so I don't have to worry about them moving around in there."
These three steps will make your stop run as smoothly as possible. Just remember that your hands and your attitude go a long way toward making an officer feel safe, which generally makes things safer and more pleasant for everyone.
"Obviously, if I walk up to the window and the guy's cursing at me and waving his hands around, that's a cause for concern. It's all about where your hands are at, and that initial interaction."