How To Handle Law Enforcement Interactions During A Traffic Stop

How To Handle Law Enforcement Interactions During A Traffic Stop

How To Handle Law Enforcement Interactions During A Traffic Stop

All across the internet, there will be a variety of opinions from concealed carriers on how to handle a routine traffic stop with law enforcement. We’ve spoken with several former and active members of law enforcement and we’re going to compare a few of the scenarios commonly brought up in forums and boards discussing traffic stops and concealed handguns.

Position A: “If it’s concealed, I don’t need to talk about it.”

For states where you have no obligation to inform a member of law enforcement as to whether or not you’re armed, this is a stance some concealed carriers prefer to take.

Let’s look at it from the converse angle: you’re the dude (or lady) making the traffic stop. You have ZERO idea when you’re approaching the vehicle whether the person in the vehicle is armed, dangerous, mentally unstable — you name it. Police officers routinely have to deal with a variety of people in the community and each one of them reacts in a unique way to the stress of interacting with an officer of the law.

That works both ways.

Plenty of police are naturally a bit wary when dealing with a person on the side of the road. Not only do they have to worry about oncoming vehicles taking them out, there’s also the statistic likelihood they’ll be injured or killed in the line of duty during a routine traffic stop.

The two biggest leading causes of death for police officers are auto crashes and being shot in the line of duty.

So, understandably, there’s a big deal of stress revolving around doing something as simple as telling someone they’re traveling over the speed limit.

Omitting information that can help that officer know you are not intentionally a threat to his or her safety is a giant step forward to making both of your experiences a net positive one.

Position B: “I inform the police officer and make sure my hands are visible at all times.”

This is the straight-forward way of going about business. If you have a valid concealed carry permit (or live in a state that doesn’t require one), telling the officer you have a concealed handgun on your person let’s him know that you value both of your safety.

We’d like to follow this up with: keep your hands visible at all times.

It sounds silly but a lot of officers are trained to watch the hands. The hands can hurt them. When your hands travel outside of the field of view of the officer, he is naturally trained to be apprehensive. After all, it’s his family and kids he’s trying to go home to after the shift is over. Anything that threatens that safe return is a threat to him.

Basic etiquette when interacting with police:

  • Keeping your hands visible
  • Turning on the dome light
  • Informing the officer of a concealed handgun

Taking these simple steps ensures he knows you’re a good guy, you’ve got nothing to hide, and you’re not looking for a fight.

A few additional notes we’ve taken from interviewing police is that they seem to appreciate eye contact and direct answering.

These are common features associated with just animal behavior. In situations where the potential for life and death hangs in the balance, these are often the things we fall back onto to learn friend from foe at a glance.

No one likes getting pulled over. We all have somewhere we’d rather be. Making sure you’re safe starts with making sure the police officer you’re interacting with has a positive experience.

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Luke McCoy is the founder of USA Carry. In 2007, he launched USA Carry to provide concealed carry information and a community for those with concealed carry permits and firearm enthusiasts.
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An approach I have used is to provide my CCW with my license and proof of insurance. Almost every time, the officer looks at it and hands me back the CCW right away. Might be my imagination but it seems like I receive more warnings than I used to.

One point is not to be reaching and getting your info together when the cop is approaching the car. If there is not time to dig out your info, then just place your wallet on the dash and keep your hands visible (I put them on the steering wheel) as he approaches.

ross kaleolani

I have a comment about keeping a wallet on your dashboard or in a dash console. I will need to check further on the laws of carrying a Lisence to carry a handgun. My understanding is a gun license must be on person at all times while carrying a handgun. I am not trying to start a debate but technically if your handgun license is in your dash somewhere it is not on person. So if a police officer wants to could they site you? Or does a handgun license need to be within reach. I don’t know. I always keep mine on body. What if I get in an accident and my wallet gets lost? Suppose there is an emergency and I have to exit my vehicle and forget my wallet? I am not disagreeing with you but I keep mine on me. Just on a comical side, how many of you have taken off driving in your car but have to turn around and go home not because you were worried you forgot your driver’s license but because you forgot your Lisence to carry a handgun? Anyway, like I say what happens if your Lisence is in the dash and in your state technically it must be on person at all times. I guess this is a discussion that has many opinions.


You have to read and understand your state carry law. If you have a question, ask an attorney.

ross kaleolani

Yes, I have been looking. From what I have read and found the License to carry a handgun what I found it reads ” must be on you”. That’s all I have found and I know there could be different interpretations but it says “must be on you”. It doesn’t say within reach or in a car dash console etc… So I will take it for what it says. I know getting off subject, I was a truck driver many years and rules say that you cannot take anything that might impair driving, if you are familiar with truck driving technically you cannot take cold medicine that contains ephedrine type ingredients. Also, for truck driving you cannot have any type of alcohol whatsoever in the truck so technically you could get in trouble for having rubbing alcohol in your possession while driving truck. Sorry, I know I was getting off subject but just trying to point out that if the law in whatever state says you must have your License to carry a handgun on you that means technically a person is violating the law by having it in or around the dashboard. I know I am sounding all like Mr. Technical but I wouldn’t like to be pulled over and have a police officer get all technical on me because I didn’t have my handgun license on body. I hope you all understand. It’s just what the law reads and how it is interpreted.


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No problem. You’re absolutely right. Gotta know the details to keep ourselves out of trouble.


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I can’t speak for every state, but it is likely true for others – in our county (Virginia) we have a 12 week class “citizen Sheriff’s academy” – 3 to 4 hours one night each week for people to learn more about our law enforcement (no city police). One thing we were told, and I observed in a 12 hour ride along shift one Saturday (interesting but tiring – we could see what they go through) is that in the stops they first call in the license plate and get a bunch of info back on the vehicle owner. That includes information like previous criminal history, and concealed carry permit holder.

My view and that was affirmed in the class, was why not tell them up front? They have the information available already, and telling them immediately lets them know that we are more likely honest, up-front, and in the words of the deputies teaching the classes, “one of the good guys”.

I have an additional card I would pull out along with license and concealed carry permit whether I am currently carryng or not – a DCJS ASO card (dept criminal justice services, armed security officer). While I don’t work full time as an ASO, I have the credential for a few reasons. Showing that as well would also tell them I am background checked every year, 4 hours basic firearm and shooting qualification tested for competence every year, and go through additional in-service retraining every other year. Maybe of little or no value, but if I was in an LEO’s shoes and somebody handed me that, I would still be wary of the traffic stop for all the usual reasons, but likely be more at ease.


As a retired LEO and firearms instructor here’s my take on why you don’t inform, especially in Virginia. Having lived in Virginia for 43 years I can tell you that certain LEO’s, in particular State Police, have been the biggest violators of common sense I’ve ever heard of when it comes to dealing with permit holders who are armed. The biggest complaint is that the permit holder, once he has notified the officer or trooper that he is armed, is removed from the vehicle, his weapon taken from him, unloaded and when “business” is finished is told not to reload it until the officer has left. This all under the guise of “officer safety”. In fact it is anything but safe. You have an LEO handling a firearm he may not be familiar with, not to mention the fact that he is disarming a law-abiding citizen for no cause and then the gun owner must rehandle and reload the gun on the side of the road.

As I stated earlier, Instances of this occurring in Virginia are legion. When an LEO runs the tag and license it may flag concealed carry permit but I tell my students not to volunteer any information and if asked, for them to ask the officer what that has to do with the traffic stop. In some States, like Utah I would take a completely different approach, not in Virginia and a few others.


That’s a valid opinion and perspective. I have only been in VA 7 years, and have not been stopped here – but interesting to see it coming from your personal experience

VT Patriot

Living in a no license state (VT), I have no ID that shows I’m carrying. No requirement to inform, no note on my license. When an officer approaches, I put my hands on the wheel after opening the window. I then simply say “Officer, I’m carrying a handgun on my right hip, how would you like me to proceed?”.
It has been a pleasant experience the few times I’ve been stopped. The cop appreciates the info, generally informs me why he stopped me, and in all cases says “Thank you for informing me, and in the future, please remember the speed limit thru here is XXX mph. Have a nice day”.


About 3 years ago, I was stopped by a Hoover AL traffic cop. While he was in his SUV calling in my license plate number, I took off my sunglasses, took out my pistol permit and rolled down my window keeping my right hand on the wheel and my left out with my documents. I did not touch my M1911 which was between my seat and the center console.

When to officer approached, I handed him my licenses and told him that I was armed. Two weeks earlier, we had had an officer murdered in a similar situation. The patrolman was visibly shaken. He saw the gun beside my right thigh.

He told me to put my hands on the door and after he opened to door and told me to stand behind my car. He climbed in and cleared the weapon. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I had a loaded M1 Garand in the truck with a bandolier with another 48 rounds.

Bert Webb

I think if you show jyst a little common sense with the officer it will end up not being a big deal but if your acting shad how else is the officer supposed to act plan snd simple

Jimmy Taylor

I must agree with B: I live in Washington State and we are not required by law to inform law enforcement that we have a concealed weapon, UNLESS asked. I was pulled over one night on my way to a camping trip, I accidentally dropped my cigarette on the floor and bent down to pick it up, it was a dark deserted road, except for the officer sitting in the parking lot of the local country store, I swerved when I reached down and of course I got lit up. As the officer came to the window I put both hands on the wheel and before he could say a word I informed him I had a .357 between the seats and that it was at the time unloaded. He was very thankful I told him and could see a relief in his manner and all went well. That was about 30 years ago, and in my humble opinion people should do it every time, there is no reason not to just because you are not required by law.