Concealed handgun carry license holders are much less likely to commit crimes than the general population as a whole, but that does not make them immune from encounters with law enforcement officers. Even the most diligent of licensed concealed carriers are occasionally stopped by law enforcement due to traffic violations, so it is important to know how to handle such an encounter if it happens to you. Below is what you should say, and do, in order to keep your interaction with law enforcement safe and courteous and avoid misunderstandings that could lead to trouble for both of you:
Before you are stopped by an officer
Before you are ever pulled over, it is wise to be prepared when traveling with your firearm. If you are stopped by an officer, then it is likely too late to handle the situation appropriately. For example, carrying your firearm stashed underneath your front seat is not ideal. If you are pulled over, then the handgun could slide out from underneath the seat and be spotted by the officer on the floorboard of your car. Needless to say, this situation is awkward at best, and you may escalate the situation before you have an opportunity to explain.
Instead, it is best that you either maintain control of the firearm in a holster or that you place it inside a closed compartment with a door or lid, such as your glove box. However, be sure that, wherever you place your handgun, your driver's license, registration and proof of insurance are in another location. You don't want a handgun to spill out when opening the glove box door. Keeping the firearm concealed until an officer requests to see it is the best practice to follow, and you will be prepared for a calm, controlled encounter should you be stopped.
Pulling over and preparing for the encounter
If you look in the rearview mirror and see those dreaded red-and-blue flashing lights, then remain calm and self-assured that you are prepared to successfully and safely negotiate the encounter. After pulling over, take the following steps:
Shift the car's transmission into "Park" or into "Neutral", then set the parking brake. Keep your foot off the brake pedal to avoid lighting up your brake lights. Illuminated brake lights may put an officer on edge for fear that you intend to flee. In addition, never back the vehicle or place the vehicle into reverse gear; the officer may interpret your move as an attempt to strike them with the vehicle.
Turn on the vehicle's interior dome light, if you are pulled over at night. This action will provide the officer with plenty of interior illumination and allow them to see your movements.
Place your hands on the top of the steering wheel and leave them there while the officer approaches the window. Don't open the window until the officer arrives and either motions or requests you to roll down the window. Never reach over into your glove box, console or into your back seat area, since this may be misinterpreted as an attempt to access a weapon.
During the encounter with the officer
When the officer finally walks up to your window and makes it known that they would like to speak with you, roll down the window using your left hand while keeping your right hand on top of the steering wheel. If the officer requests to see your driver's license, registration and insurance, immediately respond that you will gladly provide them, but first clearly and calmly state that you possess a valid concealed carry license and that you are currently in possession of a firearm. This preemptive action will immediately put an officer at ease, as they understand that few would-be criminals will admit they are in possession of a firearm at this juncture.
Once the officer acknowledges your statement, provide the officer with the requested credentials and also provide your concealed carry license card. Even if it is not required to disclose the card in your state, voluntary disclosure again serves as confirmation of your good intentions. However, never attempt to handle your firearm unless the officer specifically requests to view it. Such an attempt may lead the officer believe they are being threatened and could endly badly for both of you. If you are asked to provide the officer with your firearm, move slowly and deliberately while announcing your intentions; full disclosure gives the officer reassurance that you don't intend to do harm.