Recently I was contacted by my local sheriff’s office and asked to help them by developing training materials for their alternates. This material-specific legal guidelines for a police officer to follow in the state of Florida as someone he or she encountered had a concealed firearms license and was carrying a firearm, or a firearm legally in their vehicle. Since I’m a full-time law enforcement trainer in the state of Florida, and an avid supporter of the second amendment, which I gladly agreed to help.
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I sat down and wrote a curriculum for the delegates who included Florida’s current state of laws on the possession of firearms. I also used the investigation of the case laws with regard to the rules and regulations of seizures by the police of the citizens, including the notion of a temporary taking of your firearm on a traffic stop. When all is said and done, the program was well received by the deputies and the sheriff’s office, and continues to be used, not only by them but by the various other departments, and will be considered for inclusion in the basic law enforcement curriculum for the state of Florida.
But in doing so, it also brought to the other side of the coin: what should a citizen do if stopped by the police while carrying a firearm legally in the car, or with a concealed firearms license and a firearm on them while driving?
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Because the laws vary from state to state, as I it refers specifically to the state of Florida of the law, I will give to the cause. Otherwise, my suggestions are general for anyone in a state that can be stopped by a police officer, while hidden version, with different laws and guidelines, depending on your location. In Florida, with more than 1.7 million CWL holders of this moment, the chance of growing monthly that the police and CWL holders of an encounter with each other.
The states are divided into three categories: to inform, inform if you are prompted (such as Florida), and not on the height. In other words, if you are stopped by a police officer in some states, the law says that you must tell the police when they you that you are carrying a firearm on you or in your vehicle when you are in the neighborhood, so the police is aware of the firearm. In Florida, state statute 790.06 means that a citizen only need to inform the police that they are armed and have a permit to carry a concealed weapon if the officer directly asks them if they are armed. Then, of course, you have the states that do not require you to inform the police that you are armed. Check your state laws to find those that apply to you if you carry a firearm in your vehicle legally, or you are a CWL holder.
CAUGHT ON CAMERA: DRIVER HITS EL PASO POLICE OFFICER WITH HIS CAR
So, you are driving on the road, minding your own business, doing nothing whatsoever illegal. A police car suddenly appears behind you, turn on the emergency flashers, and sounds the siren to indicate that you need to stop on the side of the road. Of course, the law-abiding citizen that you are, you pull to the side of the road.
Now is where things can get dicey depending on your actions and behavior from this point forward.
It is a general recommendation that once you’ve pulled over to the side of the road you turn on your hazard warning flashers, and place your hands in plain sight at the top of the steering wheel, so that the approaching officer can see, without any effort, that your hands are empty. Police officers are taught to look at the hands, because it is highly unlikely that a director is going to shoot the officer with their feet, the hands are a part of the body that can cause the officer damage. By placing your hands on the top of the steering wheel and rolls down the window gives you to the officer that you are not a danger to them, and are willing to show them that. Do not make any sudden moves to the glove compartment to get your registration. Do not reach under your seat to get your wallet that you dropped in there. Generally, just do not move. Be still with your hands on the steering wheel until the officer is next to your vehicle and after you have spoken with the police know exactly what they want.
In many states, officers are taught to ask for the citizen’s driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. If that is what the officer asks, and your firearm is located somewhere near where you to reach, it is advisable to inform the officer that “I am a legally armed citizen and my firearm is (insert your location here). Do you still want that I my registration for you?” It is generally accepted that informing the officer where the firearm is and that you are a legal carrying citizen helps to defuse the situation in the officer’s eyes, and will help you have a long way to go to develop a calm and professional traffic stop.
Some officers suggest that you inform them that you have a firearm on you at the beginning of the traffic stop. Personally I don’t follow this recommendation, as coming from the word “gun” or “firearm” at the start has a tendency, for whatever reason, to make police officers nervous, so I recommend waiting until you have an appointment to speak with the police to inform them. Also, when retrieving your driver’s license, it’s not a bad idea to have the officer of your concealed carry license at the same time. Some officers will appreciate that. Some officers do not necessarily make. Either way, it can not hurt to let them know that you are a legal, licensed firearms carrier.
As I the state of Florida, you need to tell the police that you have a concealed carry license holder, unless they ask you to in particular. But if the officer asks you if you have no weapons and you say no because you are a technical person and know that Florida considers “firearms” and “weapons” to be separate — I would not want to have to try to be on your defense team, you need to run afoul. Tell the officer you are legally licensed and armed when asked about weapons, or weapons.
Through years of a Deputy on the road, and also later in my career, I’ve noticed that when someone is honest with me and told me directly that they had a CWL and a gun on them, I had a tendency to be a bit smoother. Most of the time, if you told me that you are a CWL holder and showed it to me, I would let you go with a verbal warning. I know many officers who would do the same.
As soon as you inform the officer that you are armed, what if they want to take it from you because of “officer safety”? Although I do not recommend arguing with a policeman on the side of the road, which in any case is the law or Florida law that an officer can do that. Officials may only use your firearm if you need a “danger” for them. And how is a lawfully licensed firearm carrier, a danger to the officer? In fact, in the light of the recent events in Florida, where a citizen saved a deputy’s life by shooting a suspect that was the defeat of the registrar of the death, I think that the police would want you to keep that firearm. Plus, the less handling of a firearm, on the side of the street, the less chance of an accident because an officer is handling a firearm he or she does not know. You can calmly and politely ask the officer why they want to your firearm. And if you want, you can also ask for a supervisor to respond to the scene. But in no case should you argue or in a physical confrontation with the officer. Better to follow the officers request and to discuss this later, when you are not in the middle of a stop-and tensions may be high. Officers should hopefully realize that legitimately run citizens is no danger for an officer, even in a traffic stop, because that is not the reason why citizens want to carry firearms. It is for self-defense.
The best way to make a traffic stop or any contact with an officer at legally armed is to stay calm and be honest. The officer will have the tendency to do the same. And if you happen to be stopped by one of my former students, or one of the officers I know, you can’t get a ticket and talking about what kind of firearm you have with you and how you want it. Know what your state of the laws on informing the police when they are stopped, and follow those laws. It never hurts to be nice, many times, how you treat people is how they treat you.
To carry on and always wear so that you can protect yourself and your family. I have often asked why I carry a firearm, and the standard answer is, because a cop is too heavy to carry in my pocket.
Chris Wagoner, is a OpsLens Employee and U.S. Army Veteran. He has been in law enforcement for the last 35 years. He specializes in LE Firearms Instruction, and is in the head of a large police academy in North Florida.