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What to do if you are a concealed carrier and are stopped by the police for a traffic stop.

The recent shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota has been in the news lately. In a video that was live-streamed in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Mr. Castile's girlfriend claimed that Mr. Castile had a concealed carry permit and he was shot by a police officer while he was reaching for his ID. Most of the facts about the case are unknown to us at this time-including whether or not Mr. Castile did in fact have a concealed carry permit. However, given the public attention this case has received, it presents an opportunity for discussion on what a concealed carrier should do during a traffic stop.

Laws vary from state to state as to whether concealed carriers have a duty to inform officers during a traffic stop that they are carrying a firearm. In North Carolina, the law requires concealed carriers to tell officers that they are carrying a firearm whenever they have "official contact" with an officer. While the law does not define what "official contact" means, it is universally understood to include a traffic stop.

When you are stopped by an officer for a traffic violation, the first thing you need to do is inform the officer that you are carrying a firearm. I also recommend telling the officer where your firearm is-such as on your right hip, or in your glove-box. You should also keep your hands away from where you are carrying your firearm during the encounter. The most important thing to do when you are in this situation is to remain calm. You are not doing anything wrong. You are within your rights to carry the gun. You just have to let the officer know about it. The more relaxed you are, the better.

Licensed concealed carriers are by definition law-abiding (concealed carry permits require background checks), and as such most do not have regular contact with law enforcement. When they do have contact with officers, they can be nervous because it is not a situation that they are used to dealing with. It helps to remember that law enforcement officers are professionals. They know that they will come into contact with law abiding citizens who are carrying firearms. It is nothing new for them. If you act nervous, it may give the impression that there is something going on beyond a lawful citizen carrying a firearm.

After informing the officer that you are carrying a firearm, you have then met your obligation under the law. After that, just follow any instructions that the officer may give you. Usually officers will let the concealed carrier keep possession of the firearm for the duration of the stop. But some officers will want to secure the firearm themselves for the traffic stop, and then give it back to you at the end. Some officers will want you to step out of the car. These are all lawful commands that you should follow. If the officer does secure your firearm during the traffic stop, the officer will give it back to you when the stop is over. Remaining calm is the most important part to having a safe interaction with a police officer if you are a licensed concealed carrier. Such interactions are routine for law enforcement officers, and there is no reason they should not be routine for lawful concealed carriers, as well.


by Andrew Charles "Drew" Cochran, Attorney at Law

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