Sooner or later most of us will find ourselves being pulled over for speeding, a tail light out, or something else. Any traffic stop has the potential to escalate, and CCW permit holders who are in possession of a firearm need to tread even more lightly to avoid a potential dangerous confrontation with police.
Start by pulling over immediately. If an officer “lights you up” on a street, pull to the side as soon as safely possible. Don’t try to be helpful by pulling into a parking lot as this can be seen as an attempt to evade. If the officer wants you to pull off the main street they will advise you through the PA system on their patrol car.
An officer approaching your vehicle will be on edge and looking for any indications of trouble. Help them out by turning off your engine, this will help allay any suspicions that you intend to flee.
Know where your firearm(s) are located in the vehicle. Some states require you to inform an officer of the presence of firearms. Other states do not. It’s your choice (and dependent on the situation and law) to tell the officer that you have a firearm. You may opt to keep that information off the table unless the officer asks. Either way, if the presence of a gun does come to light, you’ll want to be able to say where it is quickly and clearly.
NEVER keep your gun inside the glove box. A request for your registration and insurance is almost guaranteed, and if you open the glove box and the officer sees a gun (they will) you’ll almost certainly find yourself staring down the barrel of the officers own weapon while orders are being barked.
During the stop, the officer might make requests of you, such as showing your driver’s license. Keep in mind that while you may know where your license is, the officer does not. Verbalize your intentions. Tell them, “I will get my wallet out of my back pocket. Is that ok?” Get their consent before taking your hands off the steering wheel and reaching into your pocket.
Former police officer Duncan Mackie describes what he does when he’s been stopped by the police in his article, “Handling Police and Armed Citizen Encounters,” on USConcealedCarry.com:
“Every situation is different, but here’s what I do: First, I lower my tinted windows, and if it’s a night-time traffic stop, I turn on my interior lights. I tell any passengers to let me do the talking, to keep quiet, and to keep their hands in plain sight. My hands stay in full view on the steering wheel, and I make no sudden moves. I present my driver license and CCW to the officer when he approaches me. With my hands in plain sight, I tell the officer, calmly and politely, that I have a CCW, that I am carrying and where the pistol is, and I ask what they want me to do. (Read more about presenting your CWP in the full article here)
One of the reasons Duncan recommends turning on your interior light and rolling down your windows is it allows the approaching officer to see what is happening inside the vehicle. Any surprises during a traffic stop aren’t welcomed by the officer, and it’s virtually impossible to see inside a vehicle at night that has heavily tinted windows. For all the officer knows, someone inside the car could be pointing a gun at them on the other side of the darkened glass.
Learn the laws of your state, remain courteous, and follow the officer’s directions explicitly. If you do, you’ll be able to safely navigate just about any police and armed citizen interaction quietly and safely.