As a cop working in a state where “bundling up” means wearing a thin sweater twice a year, detecting a concealed carry weapon is about as difficult as finding a Glock fan at an AR convention. Needless to say, I’ve been trained to stop and frisk actual and potential perps quickly, efficiently, legally and politely. I also know that there are plenty of legal concealed carry license holders who’ve never been the subject of a “Terry stop.” It can be a terrifying prospect. If you’re confronted by a police officer who’s going to frisk you, here are some basic tips to make the encounter a safe one, for both you and the officer . . .
1) Know your rights
Regardless of their legal status, everyone in the United States has Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Just thought I’d mention it. Because no matter what your rights you really need to . . .
If a police officer stops you, do what the officer says—even if the officer or officers has no legal right to stop you and/or search you.
While I’m sure that all police officers share my respect for the law and treat all citizens with dignity and respect [ED: wink wink], there’s no getting around the fact that your life may depend on the officer’s comfort level. Cops are most comfortable when people respond to their instructions without hesitation, complaint, debate or comment. That’s just the way it is.
You will not win a confrontation with a cop on the street; and the last thing you want is a cop who feels threatened and/or unsure of himself and/or your intentions. There will be plenty of time to lodge a complaint later.
If you are carrying a firearm, disclose that information to the officer. Do not reach for your gun. Simply show him or her your concealed permit at the same time that you hand over your identification.
No matter what your rights, I wouldn’t recommend refusing to provide ID. Again, you can take up that issue with the police chief, your elected representatives or lawyer after the fact.
By the same token, a stop and frisk is not the best place to debate constitutional law. Reminding an officer of their legal limitations is highly unlikely to convince them to back off. And highly likely to get their back up.
You want calm. So stay calm. If you have a legal right to carry a firearm your gun rights will be respected. If not immediately then eventually.
During the stop the police officer may ask you to relinquish your weapon until he has completed his field interview. DO NOT REACH FOR YOUR GUN. Simply tell the officer where it is and allow him or her to remove it as they see fit. If the stop is based on suspicious activity, removing your weapon isn’t an option. The police officer will take your gun.
5) Replace your weapon . . . carefully
If all goes well, the police officer will return your gun. Handle it slowly and carefully. Replace it in your holster slowly and carefully. Maintain muzzle control and trigger discipline. If you’d like the officer’s badge number, now’s the time to ask. Do not issue threats of any kind to the officer.
If all doesn’t go well, your gun may be confiscated and/or your may be arrested. As discussed on this website many times, don’t say anything to the police officer except “yes” (if you understand your rights). Nothing else. When you get to the station ask to speak to your lawyer.