In a recent video, Wilson Combat hosted Massad Ayoob, who provided advice based on the tragic death of Philando Castile. For those unfamiliar, a police officer shot and killed Castile while he was lawfully carrying a concealed pistol with a permit. His death resulted in a politically and racially-charged multi-way feud between the “back the blue” crowd, gun rights activists, and people concerned with the rate of police killings of African Americans.
Many of weren’t sure where to stand on this, especially early on when details were sketchy and incomplete. Some seemed to be on all three sides.
As Ayoob points out, he’s been on both sides of the car window. Before he got into law enforcement, he was a civilian gun owner. After leaving law enforcement, he still considers himself part of the civilian gun owning community. More importantly, he’s been an extremely valuable member of that community, teaching many extremely valuable lessons to his students based on decades of experience.
His take on the shooting is that it was tragic, but largely driven by the Castile’s decisions. While he was initially stopped because he met the description of a robbery suspect, he wasn’t the robber. He initially attempted to notify the police officer that he had a gun (as any responsible permit holder would), but he did it by saying, “I have a gun,” which is an easy statement to misconstrue (Is it a threat or a good guy trying to notify?).
The police officer tried to tell him to not take the gun out, but Castile already had his hand on the gun and was trying to unholster it. This frightened the police office, who had pulled over someone he thought was a robbery suspect and whose car smelled of marijuana. The cop thought Castile was going to shoot him and did what any Han Solo would do, he shot first.
Ayoob tells us that his first piece of advice to concealed carriers is to not approach notification the way Castile did. Instead of saying, “I have a gun,” he recommends instead saying that you have a permit or license to carry. That identifies you as a card-carrying good guy from the start, instead of simply announcing that you’re armed. One is a lot less sketchy-sounding to the average cop than the other.
I know what everyone’s big concern with Ayoob’s advice is going to be. I read the YouTube comments, and believe me, you aren’t the first to say something like, “Hey, what about constitutional carry?” While Ayoob advises that you tell cops you have a permit, it’s 2022, and half the states don’t require a permit anymore. And a number of states that still require a one don’t require one in your car (and haven’t for a long time now).
As an instructor and someone who has been in law enforcement myself (even if only as a volunteer), I’d say that his advice is still generally sound, but needs to be adapted slightly if you’re lawfully carrying without a permit.
You still don’t want to say, “I have a gun.” Instead, you should say something like, “I’m lawfully carrying a pistol.” or “I have a holstered gun I’m carrying under the new constitutional carry law.”
This both notifies the officer and gives you a chance to show that you give a crap about the law (with the possible exception of the speed limit–you got pulled over, right?). It’s non-confrontational and shows that you want to be a responsible armed citizen.
What you do next is crucial, though. If you’ve taken a class from a competent instructor, they’ll tell you that you should keep your hands on the steering wheel in plain view unless told to do something else.
When you do what you’re told, do it slowly and describe what you’re going to do ahead of time to minimize surprises. For example, if told to get your license and registration, don’t dive for the glovebox and try to quickly give it to the officer. From his or her point of view, that would be potentially scary.
Instead, say something like, “My registration and insurance are in the glove box. I’m going to retrieve them,” and then slowly do that, giving the cop plenty of opportunity to tell you to stop if they get jumpy about it. It’s also worth pointing out that you shouldn’t store guns or ammunition in the same compartment where you keep papers you might need for a traffic stop, for obvious reasons.
Most importantly, though, don’t try to hand the cop your gun. Don’t even touch it. Don’t put your hand anywhere near it. If they want to take it from you during a traffic stop, they’ll have you step out and remove it themselves so there’s no mistake about your intent.
If they should ask you to give them the gun, I’d tell them that you don’t think that’s a very good idea — because it isn’t. This general “don’t touch the gun” rule applies regardless of whether you’ve got a permit or not.
Want some more tips for safe traffic stops with a firearm? I’d recommend getting training from a good instructor, but Wilson Combat and Massad Ayoob have another great video that covers this topic more broadly . . .