Prior to riding a desk and writing about guns, I was a cop. I worked for more than a decade in uniform patrol as a beat cop, supervisor and trainer. In that time, I saw and heard just about anything you can imagine.
One of the nicest groups of citizens I got to meet were armed citizens. Generally, people that carry guns are polite and friendly. Sometimes, however, a few of these friendly folks were a bit too eager to share their state of being armed with me.
“I have a gun!”
Traffic stops are one of the more dangerous things a police officer can engage in. Never mind the passing motorists whipping by at high speed while you stand there with nothing more than a pair of polyester pants to protect your butt from their bumper. Sometimes there are bad guys in the car you just pulled over.
Unfortunately, a lot of law enforcement officers have been killed or injured during a seemingly “routine” traffic stop. So cops are a little wary when approaching a citizen’s car.
Imagine my surprise when I once walked up to a driver, he turned to face me and announced, “I have a gun!” Fortunately for all parties, his hands were still on the steering wheel and it wasn’t my first day on the job. Of course, causing my late-30-something heartbeat to roughly triple in rate probably pushed me closer to a heart attack than I care think about.
The driver was a mix of excited to talk about the fact he just bought his first pistol 15 minutes prior, and his desire to let me know there was a gun in the car. Blurting “I have a gun!” could have gotten him a distinctly poor response to his intended message, though.
Tip: If you have a firearm in your car and you get stopped by a police officer, think about what you will say before you say it. Probably my best encounter with an armed citizen started with him keeping his hands on the steering wheel and saying “Hi officer. I have a concealed carry permit and my gun with me. What would you like me to do?”
“Let me show you this!”
I know from where you are currently sitting this will sound really odd, but there are some otherwise rational people who are so proud of their handgun they want to pull it out to show a police officer. Strangely, most cops don’t really respond well to walking up to someone who suddenly pulls out a pistol.
Case in point: another veteran officer and I are at an elderly gentleman’s home talking with him about a minor criminal complaint. He’s riled up over people stealing his garden gnomes but seems friendly enough to us.
We’re standing in his living room listening to him rant, when suddenly he loudly stated, “Let me show you this,” and pulls a pistol from his pants pocket.
Again, thankfully, my heart was up to the task and I did not require any hospitalization. He meant us no harm. He just wanted to show us that he could take care of himself.
Tip: If you’ve invited the local constabulary to your home, and during the course of the conversation you decide you would like to show them one of your guns try “Officer, I’ve got this really neat pistol that my grandfather passed down to me. Would you like to see it?” Only if the cop wants to see it should you then whip it out.
What should you do?
Different states have different requirements on citizens carrying concealed firearms. Some states require the citizen to tell a police officer they are armed if they are stopped. Some states do not. If your laws require it, definitely tell the officer.
Generally, I preferred for a citizen to tell me he or she is armed. It helps prevent any misunderstandings should I spot a gun tucked in a waistband later on.
However, use a little common sense. If you are stopped for a traffic infraction and there is a pistol in your trunk, there is no need to bring it up (unless required by your state’s laws). Likewise, if you are standing on the front porch talking to a deputy about a suspicious person complaint you called in, why bring up you have a shotgun in the living room?
If you do tell an officer that you are armed, take a deep breath, and do so in a calm manner. Excited people tend not to say things very clearly. If an officer approaches you, and you are excited, blurting out something about having a gun, could create a dangerous misunderstanding.
Calmly tell the officer something like “Hi, I’ve got my concealed weapon permit and handgun with me. It’s in a holster at my waist.” By leading your statement with the fact you have a concealed carry permit, you indicate to the officer you’re one of the “good guys.”
Also, don’t make any movements toward the weapon, or your waistband. You may be reaching for your wallet, but to a cop who doesn’t know you, it may appear you are trying to draw a firearm.
Keep in mind that cops are people from your own town and neighborhood. Most cops are very pro-Second Amendment. But, if your community has an anti-gun stance, the officer is likely to reflect that, as he or she is just a human being from that population.
All cops have a keen desire to not get shot. So think before you speak. Please, don’t blurt out “I’ve got a gun!” if you are pulled over.
Thanks to Richard Johnson for this article. I encourage you to visit his website www.gunsforsale.com and explore all the guns, ammo and gear. ~Mike P.