Self-Defense Tip: How to Handle a Routine Police Stop

Before I became a law enforcement officer I had a concealed carry permit. During the mandatory safety course, the instructor encouraged us to disclose the fact that we had a firearm in the car to the officer during traffic stops. In most states, the decision to tell a police officer that you’re packing heat is up to you. In others, you are legally obliged to make the officer aware of your gun. Be aware: if you do disclose, many police officers, including myself, will ask to hold the gun for safe keeping during the stop, returning it once the encounter is over. It sounds intrusive, but try to see it from our perspective . . .

For a cop, every traffic stop is a dangerous situation. While most traffic stops are routine encounters with law abiding citizens, they can also become deadly situations for all parties involved, with little or no warning at all.

Any good cop realizes that the driver has the tactical advnatage. The officer assumes all the risks associated with first contact. There is no way of knowing if someone – anyone – in the car has a firearm and intends to do the officer harm.

It doesn’t take years of training before you learn that it’s all to easy for a driver to conceal a gun in one hand as he passes over the appropriate paperwork with the other. The driver could be hiding a gun under their thigh or between the seats. Another passenger in the car could be strapped. It’s a potentially endless minefield of threats.

Theoretically, a traffic stop should run like clockwork. But it’s a surprisingly intricate process. An officer must focus on an entire laundry list of important details:

First, he or she must pull the cruiser over in a safe location, parking the patrol car to avoid creating a traffic accident while allowing enough space for a quick retreat or pursuit. The cop has to get out of their car, quickly scan their surroundings, and then fix their eyes on the driver.

As they approach the occupant(s), the officer’s eyes should be on the driver‘s side mirror; watching the driver watch them approach. Their hand should be [instinctively] placed on the handle of their gun.

Some drivers view this as a threat or insult. Officers are trained to have their firearm at hand to limit the thought process of what they have to do if they’re confronted with a lethal threat. If the officer’s trainer is worth his or her salt, the officer learns to perform this hand placement so that the driver never knows it’s occuring.

Approaching on the left (or right), the officer should check the trunk as they walk by. Passing the first rear side window, they should quickly glance inside. Approaching the driver’s window, they must now focus on the driver’s hands.

The conversation should start with an introduction and the reason for the stop. Once the driver identifies himself with all of the requested documentation, the rest of the traffic stop should go smoothly.

Throughout, the officer should control their tone of voice carefully and stick to their standard script. It’s the officer’s obligation to choose his words appropriately and courteously. He should set the tone in a calm professional way, keeping everyone safe.

On the driver’s side of the equation, it’s best to switch on your hazard lights as soon as you know you’re being pulled. Decelerate slowly and drive smoothly to a safe place to stop: someplace well-lit and removed from traffic. [Note: this is especially true for women drivers who are alone.] If this takes a while, it takes a while; your hazard lights indicate your willingness to stop.

You may wish to switch on your interior lights, as and when it’s safe to do so, and/or lower the passenger windows (window tinting is not a policeman’s best friend). As the officer approaches, keep your hands in plain view. Resting them on the steering wheel works.

Avoid any sudden movement or harsh language. Answer any and all questions factually; this is not a time for debate or discussion. If there is a salient detail you’d like to tell the officer do so at an appropriate time, again without being confrontational.

If you’re legally obliged or want to inform the police about your CCW permit, simply hand your permit to the police with your driver’s license and insurance certificate (where appropriate). It’s best to keep your permit next to your license to avoid an uncomfortable (for both of you) delay.

If the police officer asks you to surrender your weapon, do NOT immediately reach for it. In most cases, the officer will tell you how he or she would like you to transfer your gun. They will tell you to exit the vehicle, ask the location of the firearm and remove it themselves.

If not, it’s imperative that you tell the cop how you plan to disarm. “My gun is in a holster on my hip. I’d like to get out of the car and let you take my weapon. Would that be alright?” Again, move very, very slowly.

Obviously, do not attempt to clear the weapon. Equally, if you’re removing the gun (unlikely), keep the gun pointed in a safe direction at all times. Once you’ve extracted the gun, hold it for the officer to take it from you. Do not attempt to hand it to him or her.

When the officer returns your firearm, do not safety check your piece or load it (the officer may unload the weapon). This is not the time to demonstrate your gun handling skills—save your ability to holster or replace your gun safely.

If all goes well with a traffic stop, the driver receives his or her ticket or warning with equanimity, the firearm is returned and the newly educated driver continues on their journey. The officer walks back to his car thinking he may have saved a life by enforcing the law. Or, at least, done his job.

Too many officers have been killed with a firearm (including their own) or seriously wounded during “routine” traffic encounters. If an officer’s smart, they will perform traffic stops in a tactical and ethical manner. If a civilian is smart, he or she will not give the officer cause to worry—any more than they already do.

comments

  1. avatar GS650G says:

    When a driver is run on the computer does the fact they have a CCW permit come up on the screen? Do you know if John Doe is licensed to carry?

    1. avatar Ken says:

      Depends on the state. In FL, no. And there’s no requirement to advise the officer during a stop. (a whole ‘nother conversation)

      1. avatar henry says:

        I disagree. When I file a change of address for my gun permit, drivers license or even my Notary I am always asked on line if I want to make the same changes to the other two state permits. I’m thinking your not telling the factual truth here. I think we all know you already know this and even our social security numbers before you even ask the questions after you go back to your car and run our license.

    2. avatar 2Wheels says:

      +1 depends on the state.

      In VA, they do know. I’ve been asked every single time I’ve been pulled over if I have a weapon.

      1. avatar Mike OFWG says:

        I was recently ticketed for speeding in VA, no mention of CCW permit. Bad experience though, he got me coming at me head on (mobile radar) right after I passed on a two lane road. In court, he claimed I didn’t say anything when he ticketed me, of course I had told him that I was just passing and pulled in just as he came around a gentle curve toward me. His blatant lie in court did not go over well with me. The Judge basically told me that you should not exceed the limit to pass, what world does he live in? As long as average cops continue to lie in court to bolster their cases, they will not have the support of confidence of the public. It’s their choice, in the long run, it will come back to bite them.

        1. avatar Ralph says:

          Mike OFWG, most states have “per se” speed limits, which mean that speed in excess of the posted limit is unlawful — period, full stop, no excuses. Other states have “prima facia” speed limits, which means that you might –maybe — duck a ticket if you were passing and everything else was completely safe. Some states are a hybrid: they’re prima facia unless the car’s speed was perhaps ten or fifteen mph over the posted limit.

    3. avatar Mike says:

      In Ohio, it does. But we are also required to inform the cop if we are carrying.

      Which makes it a good idea to let the cop know even if you aren’t carrying, because you don’t want him to be surprised when he runs your license.

  2. avatar Todd Price says:

    Not sure what state you serve in, but I would be in a boatload of trouble in Michigan for not disclosing my carry status during a routine traffic stop. When plates get run, CPL status is displayed. If I say nothing, it is a guarantee that I will be asked to exit the vehicle with both hands in full view.

    Perhaps the CCW schools are tracing disclosure because it is the lowest common denominator for all states in which you may legally carry.

  3. avatar Skyler says:

    Officer safety is not my concern. I’m concerned about my safety. He will not get my gun in Texas unless he wants to arrest me. I’ve been permitted to carry my weapon and so has he. He’s not special.

    1. avatar Tim McNabb says:

      Officer safety IS your concern. Whether you appreciate it or not, officers provide a valuable deterrent to people you would rather not worry about.

      Imagine your day with not police to prowl the neighborhood keeping a lid on baddies. How many confrontations with bad guys would you survive – bad guys that the cops put behind bars.

      Routine traffic stops are a drag – I think they are mostly about revenue save for pulling over drunks or jackasses that do 50mph through my 20mph neighborhood. Still, the world with cops is far better than a world without them.

      If you want to live in a community ruled by laws rather than by men, then you have to carve out space in your mind for the safety and livelihood for the men and women who enforce those laws.

      1. avatar Skyler says:

        A high horse still doesn’t make traffic cops special. Don’t like them or need them or their tax collecting. They ought to be doing something more attuned to catching criminals instead of trolling for taxes. I’ve seen too much abuse to think otherwise.

        1. avatar copsoldier says:

          I am not sure who peed in your Wheaties but just last week in smalltown USA my patrol team located no less than 5 wanted individuals on “routine traffic stops!”

        2. avatar LEO says:

          Every whiny, puerile piss-ant I pull over doing 90 in a 55 bitches and moans about “revenue collecting” Did you all see the same show on 60 minutes? You’ve computed the data? Had an accountant crunch the numbers? My salary, the cruiser, insurance etc. Nah. It’s just that your little dipshit friends don’t ask you the tough questions when you rant about the cops tax collecting. Did the little baby get pulled over for speeding and spoken to sharply by a big bad State Trooper? Grow up you little bitch and act like a man. You don’t want to get pulled over? Don’t break the law.

      2. avatar Mr. Lion says:

        Whether you appreciate it or not, officers provide a valuable deterrent to people you would rather not worry about.

        I agree. However, when the officer in question is writing petty revenue tickets or going on a fishing trip, he’s neither deterring crime nor patrolling in a manner that could actually result in the apprehension of a real criminal, save for complete, total blind luck.

        The majority of negativity you see projected towards cops is due largely to the “us and them” mentality that they have cultivated all on their own.

        On the 50+ traffic stops I’ve been involved in over the years (as “them”), I’ve met three cops who were all around decent people. Professional, courteous, honest. The rest were, to be kind, not.

        1. avatar Ordine Nuovo says:

          +1

    2. avatar Dirk Diggler says:

      2 weeks ago, I got popped on the way to church for doing 45 in a 30. I disclosed (although not required) and asked her how she wanted to proceed. She had me slowly get my wallet after I told her where my Glock was. She also gave me a warning instead of a ticket (a shock where I live) b/c I disclosed up front. I am a fan for telling the police. I may not like why they stopped me, esp. if it is solely a BS revenue grab, but better safe than face down

  4. avatar Skyler says:

    Just reviewed the law. Should have done that first. I’m wrong. A peace officer can disarm me. But he’s still not special.

  5. avatar Just Another Matt says:

    If a person is carrying legally with a permit,where is the threat?A criminal on the other hand,will NOT tell if they are armed and CRIMINALS are the lawbreakers who would shoot a police officer(or any one else).In all states that have concealed carry,the number of crimes committed by permit holders is EXTREMELY low.When an officer “holds” a firearm for “safety” do they clear the firearm??Do officers receive training on the safe handling of EVERY firearm?Seems like you are issuing an open invitation to Mr Murphy to put in an appearance.
    I realize it is legal for the officer to hold firearm in many areas but just because something is legal does not make it right.

  6. avatar copsoldier says:

    In SC you must declare the weapon. You can carry in closed glove box, closed console, or trunk. Although it is worthless in the trunk. I have never asked a driver to surrender a weapon being carried on their person but, I typically will ask permission to remove it from a console or glove box. This is just because it is one less thing for me to worry about during the process. The “sleeping dog” rule applies if they have it on their body.

    1. avatar Mike says:

      Out of curiosity – when you disarm someone who is legally carrying, how do you prefer them to hand you to the weapon? Still in its holster (if it has one). If they ask to be allowed to clear the weapon first, do you do so? Do you clear it after it is given to you? How do you store it for the duration of the stop?

      It always just seems like one of those things where it’s hard to do it safely.

      1. avatar HAVE GUN says:

        It was recommended to me it is best to just ask the officer how he/she would like this be done.

        My suspicion is the officer will already have the answer before you ask.

        1. avatar Mike says:

          Oh, of course I’d just do it how they asked. But that doesn’t mean that the way they’ll do it is a reasonable best practice.

  7. avatar RightYouAreKen says:

    Ok, this is sort of unrelated, but thought I’d ask. I’ve noticed watching COPS and other tv shows, officers, as they approach the car they pulled over, very often touch the left rear corner of the car with their right hand as they pass it. Why is that? Is it to discharge static electricity or something preventing getting startled later during the stop? That’s all I could figure…

    1. avatar Dig Doug says:

      I’ve been told there are two purposes.
      1. To make sure the trunk lid is closed and latched. Officers have had bad things happen after some goblin hopped out of a trunk.
      2. To “print” the car. If there should be a crime and the driver escapes, the car can be identified with the officers fingerprints on the trunk.

      1. avatar RightYouAreKen says:

        Ah, makes sense. Thanks!

    2. avatar Christopher P. says:

      Touching with your fingertips allows for identification of the car if something should happen. Placing you there. Also, your making sure the trunk is closed.

  8. avatar Ike says:

    If you surrender your ccw firearm to the police (or allow it to be inspected) – for any reason, the officer may run the serial number through ATF’s eTrace system. If so, then you, your gun, and your dealer will be permanently entered into ATF’s trace system, and you (and your dealer) will have a “black mark” placed on your ATF records by having a “crime gun” trace. Regardless of how innocent the trace, the more traces that link to your dealer, the more scrutiny he will get during his next compliance inspection. And you will now be an ATF low-level ‘suspect’. ATF encourages police to trace EVERY gun encountered…..

    Ain’t that nice? Your tax dollars at work.

  9. avatar 2Wheels says:

    I don’t believe officers should take firearms from licensed citizens during a traffic stop for 2 reasons.

    A. I’m licensed to carry a weapon by the state and I do everything within reason to make the officer comfortable during the stop (turning on my interior lights, keep my hands on the wheel, being polite, etc.), I don’t feel that I should be disarmed during a routine traffic stop. If citizens legally carrying firearms scares cops… Move to Cali!

    B. Police officers aren’t always “gun people”. How do I know they’ll safely handle MY firearm when the ONLY gun they may be trained on is a Glock or (insert gun here)? This isn’t just a “what if”, I’ve seen officers who had no idea that to clear a 1911 you have to disengage the manual safety… I once saw an officer who couldn’t open the cylinder on a Colt revolver because he kept trying to push the release like you would on an S&W wheelie.

    Having said that, if a cop were to ask me to surrender my weapon I would politely protest but would not refuse if they insisted.

    1. avatar Patrick Carrube says:

      Well said! I too agree that many (if not the majority) of police officers are not “gun guys/gals” and from what little proficiency I’ve seen so far, I would be hesitant about “handing over” one of my pistols, although I would never refuse to do so. As a matter of fact, not very long ago I let a local LEO (friend of a friend) shoot one of my AR’s to see how he liked the EOTech (vs his Aimpoint). Twice (yes twice!) the officer pushed the magazine release when trying to close the bolt. He was young and new, but I was still embarrassed for him.

      I also wonder why Chris would want to take a legally carried firearm by a person legally able to carry one. In the 2 traffic stops that I’ve been involved in over the past 3 years, I have been asked if there was a weapon in the vehicle. In both cases, I told them that my .45ACP is on my right hip. Those officers never asked to see it, let alone take it.

      I hope that Chris and other officers don’t fall into a self-induced false sense of safety if they do/did take a pistol away from someone. I doubt that those who are illegally carrying a pistol would likely admit to an officer that they are packing heat.

  10. avatar HAVE GUN says:

    Here in Kansas I am not required to disclose. My CCHL instructor, a police lieutenant suggested we do.

    Thinking about it, if pulled over my plan is to hand over the CCHL with my DL. I can see to downside to this. I would rather be up front, nothing to hide.

  11. avatar Don says:

    The safety excuse in this instance is not valid. Think about the logic of the whole thing… It is absolutely way higher overall risk to the civilian and all the bystanders who may be in the vicinity for handguns to be unnecessarily drawn from holsters in a manner not intended (by a person who is not wearing the holster and may be unfamiliar with it) and manipulated unnecessarily by someone who may not be familiar with that particular handgun… then manipulated unnecessarily again and re-holstered.

    What is safer for the civilian and bystanders in the vicinity is for the legally owned and carried gun to remain holstered. Officer safety in this instance is an invalid excuse. They are forcing everyone else around them to incur a real and sizable risk so that they may have peace of mind. Everyone gets stopped for minor moving violations eventually. This includes pacifists, nuns, anti-gun folks, but mostly normal people. A moving violation is no more indication that you are a violent risk than your mere existence in society is. LEOs knowingly signed up and are paid to do a job that is going to put them in uncomfortable situations with known personal risks. The charter is very noble, to serve and protect society at what could be the expense of themselves. I’m all for helping LEO out in any way I can (and I do), but not at the expense of putting at risk the society they are supposed to protect from such risks.

    -D

    1. avatar Dig Doug says:

      The safety excuse is not valid, but I think it’s for different reasons than yours. Give police a little credit. They don’t have to be a “gun guy” or familiar with all makes and models to safely handle any firearm. They all have triggers. I think even the newest of the newbs know they can avoid a bang by avoiding the trigger.

      The real reason the safety excuse is not valid is because even though he may take a drivers pistol, he could very well STILL be in danger from the drivers OTHER pistol, or rifle, knife, taser, baseball bat, fists-of-fury, etc.

  12. avatar JohnB says:

    The problem here is that by taking the firearm away from the citizen who has a valid carry permit is sending the wrong message. It says to the generally law-abiding citizen that they are viewed as a threat. It says you do not care about their rights and that they are one of the little people that need to be put in their place.

    Citizens who get carry permits are the good guys. Pissing them off is an unforced error. You want people to hate cops? Keep doing stupid stuff like this.

    Most intelligent law enforcement officers have figured out that CCW permit holders are on their side and, correctly, view them as less of a threat. Sort of like pulling a fellow law enforcement officer over by accident (i.e.: no FOP plate or black and blue sticker). It is the bastards with no CCW you have to worry about.

  13. avatar copsoldier says:

    Ike I am curiuos where you get yoir information. Guns are ran through NCIC and the only response is either CLEAR or POTENTIAL HIT. CONFIRM IMMEDIATELY WITH ORI

  14. avatar ReacherJ says:

    Because “routine” traffic stops put the officer in significant danger, I wonder if there is a community benefit that is worth the risk.

    Add to this the fact that most “routine” traffic stops are for minor offenses (5 mph over, failure to signal, talking on cell phone), those stops result in law- abiding people being treated as criminals because the officer doesn’t know who he pulled over. This amounts to unnecessary harassment of law-abiding people.

    Is it worth it to the community to pay for these traffic stops, and for officers to unnecessarily risk their lives, to enforce minor traffic law violations?

    I believe law-abiding folks shouldn’t have to anticipate these type of encounters with the police.

    1. avatar ReacherJ says:

      Just a quick follow-up – the last two times I was pulled over, or in a car that was pulled over, it was for 1) making a “wide” left-turn and 2) driving with a head-light out. It just happens that both times were after 11 pm on a Friday. Again – should I or the officer have to take life-protecting precautions so the officer can enforce these type of minor infractions?

  15. avatar Ralph says:

    There’s no disclosure requirement in MA. If I’m carrying, that’s none of the cop’s business. Remember the cardinal rule when speaking to cops: STFU.

    If you think the ticket is bogus and you have a good argument, fight it in court and don’t disclose your defense strategy in advance to the cop so he can make up a good story and testi-lie. In most states, traffic court is a kangaroo court, but there are some that are fair and others where you’ll be offered a good deal just for showing up. Know the laws in your jurisdiction. You wouldn’t go to a gunfight with an unloaded gun, so don’t go to a brain fight with an unloaded brain.

    1. avatar Pascal says:

      There is no disclosure requirement in MA or CT, but in MA and CT whenever I have been stopped by the State Police, they seem to ALWAYS ask, “Do you have any weapons in the car” as matter of procedure

  16. avatar Tarrou says:

    I’ve had three separate responses during stops to my CPL declaration (required in michigan).

    1: Cop took the weapon.
    2: Cop had me unholster the weapon and unload it, and place it on the seat beside me. Don’t know what that did for him, but whatever.
    3: The most common (happened three times) is they simply ask where it is, I reply on my hip in a holster, and they leave it at that.

  17. avatar Redfish says:

    “newly educated driver”

    I didn’t really mind this piece until I read the above. Just another example of “buzz cut mentality”.

  18. avatar BWCustoms says:

    If an officer asks for your weapon, you should always state:

    “I do not consent to the removal of my firearm. However if you wish to take it I will not resist and will cooperate fully”.

    This makes it clear you do not approve, yet lets him know you are not there to start a fight or shoot him.

    In Georgia they cannot take your weapon strictly because you have it. Now an officer can ask and if you agree that is another thing.

  19. avatar Moonshine7102 says:

    Christopher, my permit to carry is proof that I have been properly trained and duly vetted by the sheriff. In what way does disarming me increase safety?

  20. avatar Tio Volatito says:

    “They will tell you to exit the vehicle, ask the location of the firearm and remove it themselves.”

    The question I have is that if you state that you do not consent to any searches and the cop opens your glove box or trunk to get the gun, does any evidence of another crime (beyond the traffic violation) found at that time fall under the exclusionary rule?

  21. avatar Dig Doug says:

    Mr. Fusaro,
    I appreciate your efforts in writing this, and I am a genuine fan of people in Law Enforcement, but much of what you suggest falls flat on two counts…

    1. You guys can’t agree on anything. Other officers have said it’s “stupid” to disarm a motorist, and I agree with them. And other officers have said clearly “when I put on my blue lights, you’d better pull over,” not allowing for a drivers discretion to choose when/where to stop. I’ve had it explained to me like this: “I know this road. I drive it every day. I know where I want you to stop and I wait until just before that spot to turn on my lights, and I expect you to stop then and there. Any delay moves my needle into the red.”

    2. If I meant to cause you harm, it is a simple matter to politely hand over my pistol and then get another one from its hiding place when you’re not looking. You make reference to “smart officers” a couple of times. I would suggest that any “smart officer” would work on the assumption that everyone is armed at all times, even the ones you just allegedly disarmed.

    I disagree with your points, but I’m still on your side. Thank you for what you do and stay safe out there.

    1. avatar dahveed619 says:

      re: #1. See Cara Knott law. Let them go red.

      1. avatar Dig Doug says:

        I didn’t know about Cara Knott, but here in my own hometown we have a police department that employs people like Marcus Jackson…
        http://www.wbtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=13643218

        Let them go red indeed.

  22. avatar Dig Doug says:

    Here’s a guy who has an interesting take on the topic…

    http://ncguns.blogspot.com/2011/11/michael-you-are-wrong-wrong-wrong.html

    I think he is badly mistaken, but it’s interesting.

  23. avatar Severe says:

    I would be curious if to know if a driver has a legal requirement to hand over their weapon when request. I’m only aware of a legal requirement to notify the officer that I’m armed (NC).

    I know this comes up frequently in discussions but I’ve never heard a legal response and it may vary by state. I’m approaching this from the, ‘a weapon that is already in a known location AND is not being handled is infinitely more safe than a weapon that’s being transfered on the side of the road amongst eleventy-billion variables’ view point.

    I also agree with Dig Doug that the lack of consistency between officers creates issues.

    I think the article is well written but is heavily slanted towards the officers position. I also consider myself a strong supporter of all officers and first responders.

    1. avatar Christopher P. Fusaro says:

      I gather it varies from state to state on the proper protocol on when you are obligated to notify an officer that there is a weapon in the car. In the State of Florida there is no obligation to tell an officer you have a gun. The gun simply has to be encased in a zipper bag or in a holster with a strap around the back. If you are carrying the gun on your person you must have a CCW.

      Other states rules vary and you should take a class from a state certified company that will guide you through the do’s and don’t’s of gun carry.

  24. avatar UtahLibertarian says:

    “but try to see it from our perspective . . .”

    Your perspective is illogical and irrational. How many times have cops been shot by otherwise law-abiding citizens who carry and inform the officer? If you have statistics that show that publicly handling a gun to disarm a legal carrier is statistically safer than not doing it, and it’s legal in your state, then, great, I’m with you. But I’m guessing you don’t, and your lack of logic is endangering us both. So get over it.

  25. avatar No Caliban says:

    My state of Connecticut has duty to inform. Twice I have called police to odd situations I happened upon while legally carrying. In both cases I had my permit and license out and my hands well clear above my waist on the officer’s arrival. One case I was in car with hands out of window, in another I was next to another car in parking lot that had been abandoned doors open and running. In neither case was I asked to hand over my weapon and in fact in the wide open parking lot was immediately handed back my permit and asked to stand by while the officer checked out the car. Of course in neither of these was I a suspect for traffic infraction, but even I was positively surprised with respect I was shown. I’ll let you know what happens if I ever get pulled over for a traffic violation while carrying!

    1. avatar Double A.D. says:

      Sorry, but CT has no duty to inform law. Please cite the statute.

  26. avatar CliffG says:

    The most likely time a cop would stop a legal ccw motorist is a routine traffic stop, most likely a freeway (safest highway to travel per million miles driven) for doing 10+ over, probably on a not heavily trafficked time otherwise everyone is speeding and what is the point? Here’s a hint: Stop doing that. At 2am, stopping a car weaving with expired tabs and a broken rear light is probably NOT being driven by a law abiding ccw guy ready to hand over his gun. As a cop, you know that. So, to a large extent this article is meaningless drivel. Sorry to be blunt.

    1. avatar james says:

      “Drivel” Well said.

    2. avatar Totenglocke says:

      I have to agree – I can’t imagine how many fewer officers would be shot or citizens beaten / shot if the police stopped harassing people for driving at a safe distance in a straight line at a faster speed (though we know this is all about extra income for the department, not that there’s any danger). The people who drive recklessly running red lights, tailgating, zig-zagging through traffice, etc (you know, the people the police NEVER pull over) are much more of a danger to people on the road.

      You could have someone who would normally be an OK person who just happens to have a gun in the car and is having a really bad day and then they get pulled over for some BS and they just snap and *bang* – dead cop and now the drivers life is ruined too after they go to jail for murder.

      1. avatar Eric S. says:

        Seriously? You’re basically arguing the Brady’s line: that every person is a bad-day away from murder so we can’t trust citizens with guns.

  27. avatar Ike says:

    Responding to copsoldier…

    eTrace is separate from NCIC. There are ATF published documents that encourage police to submit an eTrace for every firearm encountered. eTrace is not (yet) and instant check any may take several days. Not every police department will submit every gun encountered to eTrace – but some do.

    1. avatar copsoldier says:

      Interesting. I have never heard of that and I work for a well informed, well trained agency. I will look into that when I work next. I will not now nor ever purposely put a law abiding citizen in “Big Brother’s” data base. Still want to know if the gun is stolen though.

      1. avatar Christopher P. Fusaro says:

        We simply run a firearm through the FCIC/NCIC which is a national data base. The only information we recieve from that is whether or not the gun is stolen.

  28. avatar "Dr."Dave says:

    In my state, you do not have any legal responsibility to inform an officer that you are carrying. And that’s the way it should be. There is nothing wrong with carrying a gun legally, and therefore, its none of their business.

    And I am IMMENSELY offended when police officers come up to my vehicle with their hand on their gun. Its nothing shy of intimidation, and I believe many officers do it not for any real tactical advantage (You’re going to tell me the police are so poorly trained they cant execute a draw stroke from their hands hanging at their side? Really?) and only to it to set the idea in their victims minds that they are armed and that they are in control of the situation. My tax dollars hard at work.

  29. avatar oldlt says:

    It seems that LEOs are likely to be “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” ; what one reader sees as a reasonable position, another sees as one small step away from government agency home invasion. Having worked as a street cop for several years both as a country deputy then as a patrolman in a small western mining town and with other officers from various agencies I have to admit there isn’t a single “correct” way to conduct a traffic stop that I’ve ever observed once you get out of the academy. Initially, we’re all taught a standarized set of procedures to conduct a traffic stop in the academy (and, these procedures are constantly being upgraded…usually after an officer is shot and the circumstances reviewed to find out what went wrong. We definitely are in a profession that learns (or should) from its mistakes in training) but once an officer has been in the field a while a number of factors kick in and lead to traffic stops that sometimes drift from the original training. These include complacency, following the methods of older officers or agencies that may have the “if they do it, that must be the right way” reputation due to being a higher profile or bigger agency, etc. Arizona now allows concealed carry to basically any citizen that’s twenty one and not a prohibited possesser but before that it was legal to carry in your vehicle without a CCW permit as long as the weapon wasn’t “concealed” but while being shoved under the seat made it concealed, it was legal to carry in the closed glovebox. This amused me back then when I first came to Arizona from Texas and first read the state statutes. Since weapons in cars are nothing unusual in this state, most officers I’ve dealt with operate on the assumption that there probably is always a gun in the car but that a “good guy” with one isn’t going to be a threat and when he tells you he has one and your aware of where it is you go about your stop with little or no issue. The bad guy is going to lie anyway or, as someone pointed out, hand you the one gun and shoot you with the other one if he’s that devious. I realize that there is always the possibility of this happening but I’ve personally never encountered such an event or talked with an officer who’s run into one in this state. Sometimes the firearm is placed out of the driver’s immediate reach while the stop is conducted, other times it’s left in the vehicle. A lot of how a traffic stop goes down is dependent upon the feeling the officer obtains while making contact with the vehicle’s occupants, the time/location of the stop, and so forth. Ideally, we should always assume that every stop is “The One” that’s going to go south in a New York minute but, to be honest, most of us will wind up dealing differently with an elderly woman in a Town Car in the middle of the afternoon compared to a tattooed ‘banger wearing a wife-beater in a clapped out ricer at two in the morning. The thing that’s important is to try and treat the ‘banger’ with the same professionalism you use towards somebody’s grannie even as you active a higher level of alertness while doing so.

    1. avatar Ryan Finn says:

      Very well said oldlt, I think you covered everything I came here to say.

  30. avatar Mondle says:

    I have been pulled over 3 times with firearms in the vehicle all three times they were plainly visable and the only comment I have ever received from the LEO was “heading to the range or hunting?” I LOVE Living in Wyoming.

  31. avatar Tom says:

    A video fron Guns and Ammo had the operator of the vehicle hand the LEO has Driver License and Carry Permit at the same time. It was approved by Massad Ayoob so it must be correct.

    1. avatar Christopher P. Fusaro says:

      I always recommmend handing both over that way you disclose there is a gun in the car. I may simply just say to you, “Without reaching for it, where do you store it?” and be done with it.

  32. avatar Van says:

    I live in GA we have no duty to inform.

    I think a gun is safer in a holster than being handled on the side of the road. Removing the gun from the holster to clear it, transition it to the officer, etc. just invites accidents to happen.

  33. avatar michael says:

    I’ve been stopped twice. Once for 5 over the limit on a residential street (30mph instead of 25), and the next for a “rolling stop” at a stop sign. Each time I’ve been polite, non-argumentative, and did whatever they asked. Each time I just received a warning. The price of tickets these days is pretty steep, apparently.

  34. avatar JohnK87 says:

    The officer must assume that any person he pulls over may be dangerous, and thus must be ready to react if threatened. I don’t mind walking up to the vehicle as described.

    Once the officer has received license and permit and been informed of the location of the firearm, I believe he should just leave it alone. I’m not aware of ANY time where a declared permit holder in a traffic stop has shot a cop. By the time you run the license and verify the permit, you’ve got reasonable confidence the person in the car is not a danger to you. Removing and clearing an unfamiliar weapon DOES bring danger to everyone into the equation.

  35. avatar Texan says:

    Good post, good discussion – would like to see more of these.

    Seems like a lot to remember for a simple moving violation (for both sides), especially with reciprocal carry on the horizon…

  36. avatar Bob says:

    “If an officer’s smart, they will perform traffic stops in a tactical and ethical manner. ” Apparently, there aren’t many smart cops.

    *Never* take advice from a cop about what to say to them. Use a lawyer for that. You’re best off not telling them anything other than the bare essentials, if that. Go to YouTube and search for “Dont talk to cops” (select part one, and the typo is theirs). The video is advice from a lawyer. It could be the most important video you ever watched.

  37. avatar Peter says:

    “…disclose, many police officers, including myself, will ask to hold the gun for safe keeping during the stop, returning it once the encounter is over.”

    You first, Sparky. Put both weapons on my trunk lid so we can both keep an eye on them while you’re at it. The vast number of traffic stops are conducted to generate money for the jurisdiction and to disarm me while you’re stealing from me under color of law is reprehensible.
    I know you want to go home after your shift, I want you to also. But I, too want the same thing.

  38. avatar A Critic says:

    Any good cop realizes that the driver has the tactical advnatage.

    BS. Cops approach their victims from the rear while their victims are stuck in a death trap. They have every advantage.

  39. avatar oldlt says:

    Considering that the occupant of the stopped vehicle may have already decided to shoot the officer and most likely will have his/her gun in their hand ready to fire as soon as the target becomes available and the officer, usually (and I will admit this isn’t a good tactical mind set but it is realistic) is just stopping the vehicle for some, most often,minor traffic violation which will often (at least in my agency) be handled with just a verbal or written warning depending on the severity of the offense; I seriously doubt that the officer has ‘every’ advantage. Yes, we are trained to be alert and aware of the possibility of an armed response but unless it’s a felony stop (and, unlike movies,most stops aren’t) we don’t approach with drawn weapons ready to fire at the first indication of aggressive action but are usually in the position of having to return fire after being fired upon….hopefully the bad guy is a bad shot.

  40. avatar DaveY says:

    at USRKBA.org we believe some of the tactics advocated in this article are dangerous, unsound and in need of rethinking. Particularly from the perspective of a trainer. In consulting with my colleague, a retired DC officer he offered that he would be downright frightened to work with a partner with this mindset.

    http://www.usrkba.org/blog/2011/11/22/oppression-101-how-to-use-the-traffic-stop-to-be-a-bully/

  41. avatar copsoldier says:

    I knew being a cop would not make me popular but, I had no idea there was this much hatred for the profession. That may explain why this has been such a deadly year for police. Maybe if we quit pulling over all the “law abiding” tax payers, they would spare us the disdain. If we could just get the law abiding taxpayers and the criminals to maybe put stickers on their cars or color code their license plates so we could tell the difference BEFORE the traffic stop, we could fore go the needless harassment of those not to be considered as “real criminals”. We would not have to fish or hunt anymore. We could just see a guy driving down the road with a window decal that says “I’m wanted out of [state] for [crime] stop the car, gun drawn and take him to jail. If we saw a window decal that read “Law abiding taxpayer” we could just ignore what ever infraction they are committing on the basis that it wasn’t really that bad. Maybe we should teach our rookies they do not have to stop speeders, stop sign rollers, non-turn signal users and the like in favor only going after burglars, rapists, and baby killers. This would eliminate the need for half of our numbers and we could all get a grant for job re-training. Of course there may be more traffic accidents but, apparently that is not important.

    1. avatar janklow says:

      wait… so people who have any degree of disdain for the police are the moral equivalent of people who kill police officers? because that’s what i’d take away from the “why this has been such a deadly year for police” remark.

    2. avatar ReacherJ says:

      I know your comment is tongue-in-cheek, but I believe this is a reasonable proposition.

      I don’t believe there would be more traffic accidents, for the simple reason that everyone does speed a bit, and make minor traffic violations, except for when a cop is around. Is there evidence that shows enforcement of minor traffic violations reduces the level of vehicular accidents?

      Save the taxpayers money, and needless harrassement of soccer-moms and – dads, by focussing on serious crime.

      1. avatar copsoldier says:

        Again, how do I determine who is who until AFTER the stop is made. I agree the majority of people I stop are normally harmless, everyday people. I have no crystal ball to alert me ahead of time. That being said, all of will violate some traffic law now and again. How aggressive and hazardous would traffic become if folks knew there were no consequences for their actions? Enforcement may not by itself curtail accidents but I am certain the fear of stiff fines and higher insurance rates does. I normally gp through 3 to 4 warning books for every ticket book I use. I do reserve citations for the most blatant and unattentive violators. The thought of “revenue” never enters my mind. Never.

      2. avatar copsoldier says:

        Again, how do I determine who is who until AFTER the stop is made. I agree the majority of people I stop are normally harmless, everyday people. I have no crystal ball to alert me ahead of time. That being said, all of will violate some traffic law now and again. How aggressive and hazardous would traffic become if folks knew there were no consequences for their actions? Enforcement may not by itself curtail accidents but I am certain the fear of stiff fines and higher insurance rates does. I normally go through 3 to 4 warning books for every ticket book I use. I do reserve citations for the most blatant and unattentive violators. The thought of “revenue” never enters my mind. Never.

  42. avatar LC Judas says:

    I’ve been stopped more times than I care to admit. I drive like an asshole. These are the reactions I have gotten:

    Cleveland- Failure to signal twice. Pulled over, was not asked, forgot to tell him, was written for violation.

    Cleveland: Speeding. Pulled over, forgot to advise, was advised to advise as failure to advise is considered “Mishandling a firearm” and advised my weapon was not in car. Recieved violation.

    Bratenahl, side of the road. Forgot to advise, advised. Done.

    State Trooper, seat belt violation. Advised, he held onto it, ticket was issued, weapon returned.

    State trooper- Flat tire. He took the weapon, ran my background, returned it and set out flares so I could see to change the tire.

    East Cleveland- Advised, was searched, weapons confiscated, cuffed, placed in back of car for stop duration. Passenger detained outside of car. All weapons returned. Released. Speeding ticket with impaired sensory written for riding with headphones.

    Independence- Non visible tag. Advised, warned, sent on way.

    I handed the weapon over to the troopers, East Cleveland searched me. Nothing additional occurred from the stops. Were some crappy? Yes. But I only had two assholes out of a great deal of stops and those are all I remember.

    Advise, follow directions. As Tim said and my first instructor told me, his badge # is on the ticket and you can sue if your rights are violated. I don’t defend my stops, each deflated my day but I caught no rounds or additional citations. That’s just a list from someone in Ohio.

  43. avatar Mr. Weebles says:

    I knew being a cop would not make me popular but, I had no idea there was this much hatred for the profession. That may explain why this has been such a deadly year for police.

    2008 Gunfire/Stabbing/Vehicular Assault/Assault police deaths: 58
    2009 Gunfire/Stabbing/Vehicular Assault/Assault police deaths: 57
    2010 Gunfire/Stabbing/Vehicular Assault/Assault police deaths: 84
    2011 Gunfire/Stabbing/Vehicular Assault/Assault police deaths: 72

    Although higher than 08/09, 2011 seems to actually be less deadly for police than 2010.

  44. avatar william wats says:

    i lived a decade in germany and was, to the best of my knowledge, the only american to ever earn the highest level of concealed weapons permit (it was to me and not through an employer, allowed to me the power to arrest) from the most difficult state in germany (baden wurt.), and was valid throughout germany instead of just the state it was issued in.
    i expected this to be an issue in germany because a much smaller percentage of the population is armed, not all of the police are armed (although many are) and i was a foreigner.
    anytime i ever had an issue where i talked to the police i let them know i was armed and where the weapon was very quickly after a conversation initiated, moved very slowly while keeping my hands away from the weapon, and showed my paperwork if asked. my permit is valid throughout much of the EU. ive checked my weapon and ammo into baggage, claimed it at airports, travelled inter-shengen, etc – all with no difficulties.
    coming back to virginia on vacation i was on my way to the shooting range. i had an unloaded pistol locked in a travel pouch and was stopped at drunk driving checkpoint. one would have assumed id announced i was carrying a suitcase nuke from the way the police reacted. they took the travel pouch, required that i hand over the keys to it, checked to ensure it was unloaded, and waited until the traffic stop to return it. virginia is an open carry state so it shouldnt have been an issue.
    pre-germany days (when i was in the marine corps) we were transporting weapons from designated marksman school to the armory at another base with all federal permits. we were pulled for speeding, wound up with 5 or 6 police cars there (and maybe 10 cops) who all wanted to see the weapons, and after letting them look at the weapons and finger them awhile we were let go with a warning. i guess they were curious.

  45. avatar Prince J says:

    So, what about in the states (such as texas) where the state law allows citizens to defend themselves(using the same “equal or lesser force” rule) against an officer using excessive force while attempting an illegal search or arrest against themselves, or someone else? Even though it’s rare – it’s obviously happened to the point that a law aws made regarding the situation, how does handing your gun over to the officer help in that situation?

    Also states like TX and MO where you don’t have to have a CCW to have the gun in the car?

  46. avatar Bobby Chaney says:

    (Too many officers have been killed with a firearm (including their own) or seriously wounded during “routine” traffic encounters. If an officer’s smart, they will perform traffic stops in a tactical and ethical manner.)Just because someone is a cop does not mean they are proficient with ALL firearms! I have passed the background checks and have the right to legally carry a loaded firearm.The SAFEST place for the firearm is in the holster NOT being handled by anyone!

  47. avatar Jay F says:

    Cops also shoot people who “reach for a weapon” that turns out to be a wallet or phone on a daily basis. Does this mean that I can request he unload his weapon during the duration of the stop?

    I thought the entire point was that they are there for public safety? If there safety is my concern, what do I need them for?

  48. The issue here is two-fold. In most states it is physically impossible to match the license plate up to the date base of CCW holders. This could be because of technical reasons or more likely because these CCW list, by law are confidential and only accessible if there is a legitimate police investigation, such as seeing you with a gun stopping a robbery and you don’t have your CCW on you. Accessing the list would be a legitimate investigation, but checking every car you stop for speeding is not.

    I have a wife and two children. I am the only CCW holder. Everyone lives with me because the house is big and rent is free. Their cars are plates are in their names. Because the way my driveway is set up, if I need to run to Home Depot and my car is blocked by two others, I am going to take the last car. Doing a check on my daughter’s plates, even if they could match the CCW up to the plate, would yield nothing as my daughter has no CCW and is at home.

    Bottom line, if your handgun in plain sight and readily accessible (as it should be) tell the police if you are stopped as you may get shot. There are not 5% of CCW holders who carry this way. If it is out of sight and you won’t need to access the area where it is during the stop to get paper work, and it is not the law, don’t volunteer it. Most gun discharges take place when loading and unloading a firearm, a police officer (and i ran a 35-man department for a decade) does not have enough training or knowledge to make all of the 10,000 different types if handguns safe and should not try. While you are telling the police officer about your safely stored, out of sight gun why don’t you tell him about those Lortabs that you borrowed from your wife that are in your suitcase.

  49. Read prologue to this chap. The Mushoku vibes are high but id hire Sirius to teach combat to Rudeus coz that guy wusses out way too much…

  50. avatar Fuck You says:

    At what point during the traffic stop do you get down on your knees and blow the officer? I mean…you’re asking us to basically become that officers bitch during the traffic stop, kowtowing to every demand like somehow they are more important than you. Also, do cops like to have their balls fondled while getting their dick sucked?

    As one of the other commenters pointed out, criminals will not disclose that they have a weapon. If I have told the officer I have a firearm, and the location of that firearm (which is reasonable), that should be sufficient, no need to disarm a law abiding citizen. Jumpy/nervous cops kill people.

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