(February 10, 2017) - It's Friday once again, and another question from the public for our "Ask CCPD" blog! This one is out of the vault (all questions are saved, so if you submit and don't see it answered that Friday, it may come up later), and it relates to our "Traffic Stop Etiquette" from Ask CCPD #2.
"I just read the Traffic Stop Etiquette 101 description and thought it was very helpful. One additional question related to this, if a driver has a concealed weapon permit and a concealed weapon in their vehicle, what is your recommended etiquette to inform the officer of that situation? It makes sense to me, it would be valuable for the officer to know that. Thank you."
Excellent question, Rick. If a driver has a valid concealed weapons license and is carrying or transporting a firearm, this becomes more a matter of etiquette than law. No one is required or obligated to tell us they have a firearm. Some officers as a matter of habit will ask about weapons in the car; you still aren't required to disclose that. That being said, we all appreciate when a citizen does inform us of a gun in the car or on their person.
Informing us avoids a lot of potential problems. If you exposed the gun on your person by accident, or show it in a glovebox when you go to retrieve your registration, or we see it poking out from under a seat....our alarm bells are immediately going to go off, and the potential for a bad situation grows. If you do find yourself in one of these awkward spots, as long as you don't reach for the weapon everything will go fine. Follow an officer's orders if they order you out for safety in this situation; if you're a valid license holder everything will work out fine.
Now let's explore the better option. Keep your hands in sight (always, always), and go through the typical traffic stop stuff (Hi, I'm Officer X, I stopped you for this, license/registration). When you're able, and without moving those hands, let us know that you have a firearm in the car and where it is. We appreciate this, and you'll likely get one of two responses: the officer may thank you and tell you as long as it stays where it is, all is good; or the officer may ask to remove the weapon from the car for the duration of the stop. ***We received a LOT of feedback on this. This is not a very common practice among officers, but does occur. Cops are usually concealed weapon carriers off-duty, and we never intend to violate anyone's constitutional rights. To be clear: this is a simple request an officer may make if they prefer it that way. It is NOT a lawful order, only a request. You CAN refuse, unless the officer has an articulable reason to disarm you against your will (reaching for it, safety issues, etc.) Officers' lives have been saved by lawfully armed citizens, and we are all aware that lawfully armed citizens are not typically a danger to us.*** Cpl. Mullen, 2-17-17
If the latter, he/she may ask you to step out of the car during the stop, and before we send you on your way we would return the gun to the car, unloaded (we aren't going to hand anyone guns back directly). Once the stop is concluded and everyone separated, the concealed weapon holder is free to put the firearm in whatever state they choose (loaded or unloaded, whatever their chosen method of safely carrying is).
Officers are always on alert, especially on traffic stops. Traffic stops are a high-risk event, and for us there is no such thing as a "routine traffic stop". Being forthcoming about something like this won't completely shut off our state of alert, but it certainly does help. The bad guys who would try to do us harm probably aren't going to kindly inform us of a weapon before they try to shoot us. A properly licensed and law-abiding citizen who chooses to carry a weapon for self-defense isn't going to have an issue.
I hope this answered your question Rick, and thank you for the submission! Submit your questions by visiting the "Ask CCPD" section of our website, under the "Information" tab. Also, if you ask a question that likely has a one or two line answer, please include your email address in your question; otherwise we can't see what address it's coming from. These blogs are longer than one or two lines, but we will answer the shorter questions personally if we can. Thanks for reading, and see you next week!
About the Author:
Corporal Philip Mullen is a nine year law enforcement veteran assigned to the Office of the Chief of Police and serves as Assistant Public Affairs Officer for the Cape Coral Police Department.
For the last 9 years, Corporal Mullen served as a Patrol Officer in our Patrol Bureau, and as a Field Training Officer, preparing new recruits for the rigors of police work over the past 5 years. Corporal Mullen is a member of the Cape Coral Police Department Honor Guard and has represented the Cape Coral Police Department across the United States. He is a recipient of two Lifesaving Awards and the department's highest honor, the Medal of Honor. Phil holds a Bachelor's Degree in Public Safety Administration from Edison State College.
CAPE CORAL POLICE DEPARTMENT | Public Affairs Office | 1100 Cultural Park Boulevard | Cape Coral, FL 33990 | (239) 242-3341