How do you act if police pull you over, and you're legally carrying a gun?


In a video taken seconds after he was shot by a police officer during a traffic stop, the girlfriend of Philando Castile said he'd informed the officer that he had a Minnesota permit to carry and was carrying a firearm.

While the circumstances surrounding the Castile shooting are in the hands of investigators, the incident has raised a big question for the estimated 200,000 Minnesotans who have permits to carry.

What are you supposed to do if you're carrying a legal firearm when you're pulled over by police?

BringMeTheNews has spoken with three organizations who have some guidance for legal gun owners:

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek: "Tell them you're carrying"

"If you are stopped for whatever the offense, whether a traffic violation, a suspicious vehicle, or any interaction with police, you are not required under Minnesota law to tell an officer you have a permit," Stanek said.

"But law enforcers and most trainers will tell you, you should inform them that you do have a permit and tell them where the permit is, as well as the location of your firearm. Most people do this."

The sheriff points out that officers have the ability in their patrol vehicle to check if someone has a permit, so if you don't disclose it and they then find out you have a permit, it could raise suspicions.

"That's why we encourage the individual if they have a permit and nothing to hide, to tell us," he adds.

So how do you act if you're pulled over while carrying?

"If you see those red lights behind you, pull over, turn on the dome light, roll down the window and, if you have time, put your wallet or purse on the dash, then put your hands on the wheel," he said.

"Do not take the gun out, do not put it on your lap, don't move it and put it in your glovebox or waistband."

Sheriff Stanek shared some insight from the officers' side, and how they approach traffic stops.

"Your demeanor at a traffic stop means everything," he said. "An officer will suspect there's a gun in the car unless they can confirm there's not one in there, or unless you confirm you have a permit and a firearm."

"Put yourself in the officers' situation, if you've done nothing wrong then the best thing to do is disclose it and take that fear away.

"It doesn't mean an officer is going to approach a car with their gun drawn or their hand on their gun, usually movements in the vehicle as they approach dictate what action an officer will take.

"I think people get hung up on 'I don't have to so I'm not going to' but there's another side to it, you fear what you don't know," he concluded. "It's easy to say 'I have a concealed carry permit and firearm,' and tell the officer where to find it."

Telling an officer, he says, is a "common courtesy."

Gun rights leader Andrew Rothman: "Don't say the 'G' word."

Saying the phrase "I have a gun," leads to an "adrenaline dump" in police officers, according to Andrew Rothman, president of the Gun Owner Civil Rights Alliance (GOCRA) in Minnesota.

He also suggests if you're carrying a legal weapon and it's unlikely an officer will see it, don't bring it up.

"I have been teaching permit classes since 2005 and the recommendation these days is that if the gun is concealed and it's not going to be seen by the officer, and it's not relevant to the stop, there's no reason to bring it up," he said.

"Because while there may be a moderate upside – sometimes you’ll get a police officer that sees the permit card as evidence that the person is a certified good guy and might give them a break on a traffic infraction.

"But the downside is, and my nightmare scenario ... was that it would turn into one of those times where the police officer felt, for the officer’s safety, her or she would have to take possession of the gun and unload it, and we have heard horror stories about officers who are not necessarily competent to handle the permit holder’s firearm, not being very safe with it."

Rothman says it would be appropriate to disclose if there is a chance the firearm will be seen by the officer if you have to move, if you're taken into custody or ordered to leave the vehicle.

But he says, there's a right way of doing this.

"We give them a very specific protocol for disclosing, because there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it," he said.

"It turns out that when you say the ‘G’ word, it tends to cause an adrenaline dump on the part of the officer, and that makes them think less clearly and act less smoothly, and so we don’t say the 'G' word or the 'F' word.

"What we advise is to keep your hands on the wheel and say 'I have a Minnesota permit to carry and I'm carrying, what would you like me to do?'. The officer can process this information and if the permit holder has their hands on the wheel and doesn't make any sudden movements, then this reassures the officer they are not in any danger.

Note: This section was updated after paraphrases were used as quotes in some instances. BringMeTheNews apologizes for the error.

The ACLU's Jason Williamson: "Tell officer before doing anything."

Jason Williamson wrote a piece for Time Magazine in the wake of Philando Castile's death about a person's rights during a traffic stop, and took some time out to speak to BringMeTheNews.

He thinks that the onus should not just be on the driver for a traffic stop to proceed safely. Williamson thinks more training in police departments is needed to ensure that seemingly benign situations don't escalate.

"They [drivers] shouldn't be responsible for a tactical misstep of an officer," he said.

But if you want to exercise extreme caution, this is how he suggests you go about it:

  1. Tell the police officer that you are armed and that you are legally licensed to carry.
  2. Let the officer know where the firearm is, whether on your person or in your car.
  3. Keep your hands visible.
  4. Before you reach for anything, let the police officer know what you're about to do.
  5. Ask the police officer what they want you to do. Take them through it: "Do you want me to take out my driving license? Do you want me to remove my firearm or do you want to do it? Would it be better if I left the vehicle?"

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