So you are legally carrying your firearm driving down the road when you see the blue lights behind you! What should you do!?
I get asked this question a lot in my LTC classes so I figured it might be a good topic to talk about here.
First lets start on what you are required to do. In Massachusetts you are not legally obligated to tell the officer that you are carrying a firearm.
Now lets talk about what you should do. First thing I want to say is that there isn't necessarily a right or wrong answer to this. This is a personal choice you need to make for yourselves, but there are somethings you should consider.
First thing to think about is the fact that what it boils down to is everyone just wants to be able to go home safe at the end of the day. Both you and the officer that pulled you over. Also something to consider is that Traffic Stops are some of the most dangerous things that a police officer does. More cops die during traffic stops than doing anything else. So many of the things officers do during a stop is in defense of you possibly shooting at them. They way they park, they way they shine their lights, they way they walk to your vehicle, where they stand, where they place their hands. Everything.
So my number 1 rule is NEVER surprise an officer with your firearm. If it is at all likely that the officer may see the firearm during the traffic stop (IE its in glove box with your registration, or its sitting under dash board, or between your legs) then immediately and with your hands still on the wheel let the officer know that you are a legally license firearm owner, and that you have a firearm in the vehicle. They can then let you know how they would like you to proceed from there.
Personally though I don't think any of those places are good places to store your firearm, and would never do that. So what about for those of us who have it stored in a safe and secure location on our bodies in a spot that would not be readily available to be seen? In these instances I recommend AGAINST informing the officer, and there are a few reasons for that. 1) Why escalate the traffic stop if you don't need to? My firearm is like any other tool I carry on me every day. When the officer walks up I don't feel the need to list the entire lengthy inventory of items that I carry on me everyday. To me a firearms is no different from my cellphone, keys, wallet, lighter, etc etc. Its a tool just like the rest. 2) I don't want to have to possibly step out of the vehicle so that they can secure my firearm for the remainder of the traffic stop. 3) (Here is the MOST important one to me) I don't want to accidentally get my self in trouble. Ill give you an example. So the rule in MA is currently no firearms on school property. Well most people don't know this, but there are roads in mass that are OWNED by some of the state universities. So what that means is if you get pulled over for doing 35mph in a 30mph zone, the officer walks up to your window to ask you to please slow down and have a nice day. Well instead the first thing you say to them is "Good morning officer just wanted to let you know I am a legal licensed gun owner, and am currently carrying my legally owner firearm." Well guess what the next thing he is going to say is. "Please step out of the vehicle sir and put your hands behind your back" You just attempted to breaking the law. You are on school property, and just admitted to having a firearm. You just broke the law. You just LOST your LTC, and now because of the lovely gun registry we have here in MA the police will be knocking at your door with a list of all your firearms to collect them from you.
Now do I think most cops are like that? No I don't, but could it happen? Yes it absolutely could. There are other examples of this as well. So to me its not worth it. I'm not doing anything wrong. The officer doesn't need to know I have a firearm on me. They can complete their traffic stop, and then I can go about my day.
Some other things to consider though. My suggestion here can be dependent on the state you are in. There are some states that require you to inform the officer. So make sure you understand the state laws of any state you plan on carrying in, and not JUST Massachusetts laws. Another thing to consider is if you are already nervous when you get pulled over, and now that you are pulled over while you have a firearm on you, you become extra nervous is MAY make sense to let the officer know so that he can understand why you are acting nervous. The officer MAY assume your nervousness is because you are hiding something or have just done something wrong so letting them know what is going on and why you are acting nervous may help deescalate the situation.
Now lets talk about what you should do after you tell the officer you are carrying. If for any of the reasons discussed above you have to or decide to tell the officer you are carrying a firearm what should you do after that? Well 1st keep your hands visible at all times, and then ask for permission to do anything else you need to do. Want to grab your license out of your wallet? ASK! or at least INFORM them that that is what you are about to do. Second is don't forget that you told them. Lets say you hand them your license and registration and then they walk back to their cruiser to run your information. But your cell phone fell between the seats, or into the back? Well when you start reaching and fishing around looking for that, from the cruiser, the officer may mistake those movements as you trying to get your gun. So just keep it in mind after you tell the officer you have a firearm that whether they are standing in front of you or not that information is still out there and you need to act accordingly.
SO NOW WHAT!?
Well that for you to decide. I have given you some things to think about. You now need to consider what I told you and make your own decisions about what you want to do and how you want to handle being pulled over.