The Corner

Law & the Courts

I’m a Concealed-Carry Permit Holder, and When I’m Pulled Over This Is What I Do

In response to Letdown City

As Charlie outlines in his post, Philando Castile’s girlfriend reports that he was a licensed concealed-carry permit holder, and he was shot while reaching for his wallet (as she claims he was instructed) during a routine traffic stop. If true, this is chilling for the reasons Charlie states well:

If Reynolds’s account were to be confirmed, it should worry all 13 million concealed carriers in the United States (well, it should worry everybody, but it should especially worry concealed carriers). Under Minnesota law, concealed carriers are not required to tell police officers that they are carrying until they are explicitly asked. Moreover, in no state is the mere act of carrying a firearm sufficient justification for a police officer to open fire (there is a crucial difference between “carrying” and “brandishing” that is often ignored in the press). If, as Reynolds claims, Castile was killed while doing no more than reaching for his ID, then it seems clear that the officer was in the wrong. How many other cops, one wonders, remain unaware of how they should engage with citizens who are licensed to carry?

I’m both a concealed-carry permit holder (in Tennessee we call it a “handgun carry permit”) and a habitual speeder. I’ve been pulled over numerous times — fortunately so far without incident. Here’s what I do:

First, I presume that the officer is going to be on heightened alert since he’s run my plates, knows I have a carry permit, and assumes that I have a gun in my truck.

Second, As he approaches the truck, I make sure that he can see both my hands at all times and that I have my license, carry permit, insurance card, and registration already out and visible in my left hand.

Third, I greet him warmly and respectfully, apologize for my obvious wrongdoing, and immediately tell him if I have a weapon and where it is. (I don’t make any moves to point at it or show him where it is.)

Fourth, aside from handing him my identification, I keep both hands on the wheel — right in his line of vision.

When I’ve followed those steps, law enforcement has been unfailingly polite and professional. Since I’ve gotten my permit, I’ve never had a bad or remotely tense experience. However, I’m in no way implying that Castile or his girlfriend did anything wrong (we don’t have tape of the actual shooting and don’t know precisely how it happened), I’m merely explaining how I’ve handled traffic stops as a lawfully armed citizen. This is exactly the approach we were taught (by a cop) in our carry class, and it’s the approach I’ve followed religiously ever since.

Finally, yes I know I should speed less. That’s my fault, and when one is carrying a weapon it is irresponsible to engage in behavior that increases interaction with the police – in fact, that’s generally good advice. The best way to avoid tense police encounters is to avoid the behavior that triggers police encounters.


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