We’ve all been there. Pulled over by law enforcement for a traffic infraction of some kind. Perhaps one of your headlights is out (my most recent stop), you didn’t see a stop sign or were speeding. Regardless of the reason or your guilt regarding the initial stop, having a firearm in the car may add a layer of complication and/or anxiety for some. Especially in light of the events that recently transpired in Dallas, a lot more people are on edge. So in today’s Just The Tip, we’ll cover some best practices to help ease tensions and minds on both ends of the equation. It’s especially noteworthy that nearly all of these tips apply whether you’re carrying a firearm or not.
Without further ado:
Turn Off any Music
It’s pretty hard to give the impression that you’re willing to have a positive interaction while “Fuck the Police” is blaring from your vehicle as the officer approaches. Make sure it’s off when you’re pulled over.
Turn Off the Vehicle
and put your keys, if you’re in a vehicle that still uses keys, on the dashboard. This is a clear sign that you’re not going to attempt to run.
Turn On the Interior Dome Light
during hours of darkness. This increases visibility for everyone.
Don’t get your wallet, registration, or insurance out while an officer is approaching your vehicle. Rustling and moving around inside a vehicle can look like all sorts of nefarious actions.
Place your Hands on the Wheel
Put your empty hands either on top of the wheel or at 10 and 2 just like you were taught in driver’s ed. This makes it obvious you aren’t holding anything.
Or, put your Hands out the Window
Putting both hands in plain view outside the window is a clear sign you’re not an immediate threat. Some cops ask every driver to do this on nighttime stops. That said, showing your hands might be a sign to some, probably overly-suspicious, cops that you’ve been “in the system” before–where you’ve learned to always show your hands.
But most cops will appreciate the gesture and see it as an honest effort to ensure you’re not mistaken for a threat.
Roll Down Your Window
It doesn’t have to be all the way down. But just like not having loud music playing, having the window shut is an implication that you may be more difficult to deal with.
If you have Dark Tinted Windows, Roll Them All Down
Know what sucks for a cop? Walking past a nearly black left rear window to approach a driver. Cops have no idea what or who is in the back seat; someone could literally be pointing an AK at them, and they wouldn’t see it. All windows down + lights on alleviates that worry.
Immediately Declare You’re Carrying if Legally Obligated
and strongly consider it even if you’re not. In the state where I live, there is a duty to declare. Each interaction starts with, “Hello officer, I have a duty to inform you that I am a concealed carry permit holder and that I am currently carrying a handgun“.
The next step is on the officer. Sometimes they’ll ask you where you’re carrying. Occasionally you may get a ‘don’t show me yours and I won’t show you mine‘ funny comment. They may have you step out of the car to temporarily disarm you and run the numbers on your gun. Regardless of which way the interaction goes, be clear in your language and only make deliberate and projected movements.
Don’t be an Asshole, even if You’re in the Right
If everything goes south, the time to fight an injustice is not when you’re cuffed on the side of the road. That’s what courts are for.