Safety Tips for Traffic Stops When Carrying a Gun


Seeing blue lights in your mirror while driving is never a good thing. But if you are legally carrying a concealed weapon, it can become even more complicated. We all read the news and know that police officers are often nervous and exceptionally careful when conducting traffic stops, and often with good reason. There were 331 police officers shot in the line of duty in 2022. Of those, 62 were killed. Many of those incidents began with a traffic stop. That’s enough to make anyone nervous.

But there are some things you can do to make being the subject of a traffic stop when legally carrying a concealed weapon less stressful for everyone involved and safer for yourself. I am not an attorney, and this article is not legal advice. It is a discussion of the common sense things everyone can do to prevent what is already an unpleasant experience from worsening.

Cops Are People Too

First and foremost, always remember that cops are people too. Yes, some of them are not always nice people. Believe me, I was a probation officer for some years, and my son was a Deputy Sheriff, so we know there are cops out there who probably shouldn’t be on the job. But, by and large, most of them are decent people.
But that means they also have the same life experiences and problems we all do. Bills that need to be paid, a car that needs repairs, kids not doing well at school, and a loved one with poor health can prey on anyone’s mind. Added to the everyday problems we all have, is the inherent stress of the job. We see a fatal traffic accident in passing. They see it in excruciating detail. When I was a probation officer, I had to go into apartments and homes that were beyond filthy and foul to execute searches for drugs, weapons, and stolen goods. LEOs see the worst of humanity on a daily basis. So, if a police officer doesn’t seem especially polite, there may be a lot more going on than you know. Besides that, he or she probably doesn’t want to be at that traffic stop either.

How to React

The first thing to do is get your head in the right place. It’s a traffic stop, not a felony arrest. The worst thing that is going to happen is a traffic citation. If you are overly nervous, the officer will pick up on that and the stop might last longer while he tries to determine why. If you are angry, you could provoke a confrontation, which could escalate. If you try to be too friendly, the officer may wonder what you are hiding. Just be natural and deal with the stop in a mature manner.

Pull Over as soon as it is Safe to Do So

Put your signal on when you see the flashing lights so the officer knows you see him. Pull over as soon as it is safe to do so. If possible, go for a well-lit spot so that you and the officer can see each other clearly and his body cam will capture a good video.

Everyone in the Car Should Sit Still

Turn off the engine, turn on the interior lights if it is dark, put your hands on the steering wheel, and sit still until instructed to do something. Passengers should also sit still and keep their hands in plain sight.

Be Polite, Otherwise, Be Quiet

If you are angry at being pulled over, in a hurry, or just having a bad day be polite anyway. If you don’t feel like being polite, then be quiet. Arguing, complaining, or threatening the officer will not lead to a good outcome, especially if you are carrying a gun. Tell your passengers to be quiet and let you deal with it.

Wait for Instructions

Wait for the officer to tell you what he or she wants you to do before digging for your registration, license, and insurance card. Cops get nervous when the subject of a traffic stop is reaching around inside the car as they approach. It may seem over the top, but it is better, and safer to sit still until the officer tells you to move.
Once the officer has given you instructions, comply by moving slowly and telling them what you are doing. “I am going to get my registration out of the glove box.” After that, just follow his or her instructions and things should go fine.

Things Not to Do

  • Reach for things as the officer approaches your car. That will put them on alert for a possible problem.
  • Argue about the reason for the stop. It won’t do any good and will only make the officer angry. You can argue your case in court.
  • Be rude. Being rude has never made a traffic stop go better and it never will.
  • Start reciting your rights. Again, that will not make the traffic stop go better. If your rights are being violated, you will have good cause to get an attorney and sue the agency later.
  • Get out of the car. If you are sitting in the car, you cannot physically assault the officer, and they will feel safer.

Disclose or Not Disclose

Some states have laws that require you to disclose if you have a carry permit and/or if you are carrying a gun. It is up to you to know whether you have a legal responsibility to disclose. Other states, like mine, do not require you to disclose if you are carrying a gun, but the officer will find out anyway when they run your driver’s license through the system because there will be a flag on it showing that you have a carry permit. I’ve been pulled over twice in the past 20 years. The first time, I didn’t disclose it to the officer, and I got a lecture after he ran my license that it’s better to tell him if I have a gun. Since it isn’t a law, he couldn’t do more than hassle me, but that was bad enough. The second time, I was coming back from business in a communist state and didn’t have a gun with me, but I told the officer in advance that he would see that I had a permit when he ran my license but that I was not carrying a gun that day.

In general, I think it is better to inform the officer that you are legally armed rather than him or her finding out on their own, potentially leading to a tense situation. If you live in a state that does not require a permit, then the cop is not going to know unless they see your gun, again, potentially leading to a tense situation.
If you are going to inform the officer you have a gun, do it before you start reaching around for your license and registration. After you tell them where it is, ask them what they would like you to do. Do not reach for it to show them or even gesture toward where it is. Just keep your hands on the steering wheel.

Difficult Questions

Police officers often ask several questions that you are not legally required to answer. They do this for several reasons, depending on the question.

“Where are you coming from?’ – Translation: Have you been anywhere near a known accident or crime scene?; Are you local?

“Where are you going today?” – Translation: Do you have a specific destination, or are you just cruising around looking for opportunities to do something you shouldn’t? Are you having an emergency, such as going to the ER?

“Do you know why I stopped you?” – Translation: Are you going to essentially admit you know you were doing something wrong?

To me, there’s no reason not to answer the first two questions. Refusing or being evasive will only set off alarms in the officer’s head, causing them to pursue the issue. If the officer asks if I knew why they stopped me, my answer is always no.

A more problematic question is if the officer asks if they have permission to search your vehicle. Again, I can’t give you legal advice, but my answer would be to clarify why they want to search my vehicle, and then tell them no. There is no need to go into your constitutional rights. The officer already knows what they are. Simply tell them you don’t consent to warrantless searches. They may search your car anyway, but at least you will be on record as not having given them permission. A key point if you decide to take the agency to court.

This issue is also influenced by whether or not you told them you were armed. If you did not tell them, and they find a gun during their search, it could complicate the situation considerably.

What if They Ask for your Gun?

The final potential complication of being pulled over while legally carrying a gun comes if the officer insists you give them your gun to hold until they are done with the traffic stop. Again, under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, they have no constitutional right to seize your legally owned and carried gun without cause, even temporarily. The problem is that the officer is on the scene, and they already know they have no legal grounds to seize your gun but are going to do it anyway. That being the case, refusing could lead to a very unpleasant outcome. In my opinion, it is better to cooperate and then take the matter to a good Second Amendment attorney. If you don’t know one already, find one now before anything happens to make you need one.


The police are not our enemy. They are regular people who are underpaid for doing a dangerous and often thankless job. Some of them support the Second Amendment, and some do not. You will have no way of knowing which you are dealing with if you get pulled over. What you can be sure of is that traffic stops make both you and police officers nervous. Be polite and cooperative and avoid turning a simple traffic stop into a major confrontation thus ensuring that you arrive at your destination alive and well.

While articles like this can cover the basics and provide some general guidance, it is always better to get advice from an attorney who knows the gun laws in your state. To get specific guidance, speak to a local 2A attorney. Organizations like the USCCA also offer videos and articles by attorneys that cover situations like this.

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