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Don't Ask Don't Tell, Carrying a Gun during traffic stops

Updated: Jun 22

I get this question often and talk about this at every class. "If I am carrying a handgun and am stopped by law enforcement- should I tell them?". Well, situation dictates.

Carrying a Gun during traffic stops

If you are in a state like Maryland, where you have zero legal obligation to volunteer than information- no, I would not tell them. Most of the time- fact that you are carrying is irrelevant to the stop and, in a state like Maryland, it ends up bringing about many more questions because of that lack of experience and knowledge on the topic.

Many that work in LE in Maryland don't know what isn't prohibited by law, such as the open or concealed carry of a handgun with a Maryland Handgun Permit or that a citizen can open carry a long gun in Maryland with no license or training at all. That fact isn't a knock on law enforcement, its just a reflection of the bureaucracy in Maryland. The training they receive is a reflection of the experiences they are most likely to go through and the situations officers more commonly deal with on a daily basis.

Law enforcement don't often have to interact with those that carry because statistics show they are the most law abiding. Additionally, Maryland doesn't have as many permitted carriers as our Virginian neighbors or even D.C. (yup, D.C. has been handing out permits like candy since October 2017) so it makes that interactions even less common. Unfortunately do to such interactions being so infrequent, they either haven't been trained on how to do with a citizen lawfully carrying or simply forgot about that hour long PowerPoint.

"BuT i HaVe NoThInG tO hIdE..." thats great. Then be sure to tell the officer what you ate for breakfast, the name of your first middle school crush and whether you prefer cats or dogs. All of which is nothing to be ashamed of and equally irrelevant to that situation. There is no benefit to volunteering that information. The officer isn't going to give you a pat on the back or a good-boy cookie. They aren't going to be friendlier to you now or flip to warning mode. If they don't ask, why would you tell?

Carrying a Gun during traffic stops

I am not dumb, I get why they may want to know. I understand they have a dangerous job and at times bad people shoot at LE officers. But drunk people strike officers on traffic stops as they drive by too at times, but I am not going to voluntarily let any officer the ends up in my vicinity know that I am sober and show them my drivers license.

Now, if they ask, its not the best advise that you lie to them (remember, none of this is to be construed as legal advice). If something during that traffic stop leads them to discovering the presence of your handgun- that could escalate quickly. If they ask, tell them.

When you tell them- don't:

-touch it

-point towards it

-grab for your wallet to whip out your carry permit nor your stupid "Conceal Carry Permit" badge you bought online

-randomly just state "I got a gun!" (people nervously do dumb stuff when in the presence of an officer sometimes)

Instead- keep your hands on the wheel as you say something along the lines of Officer, I have a concealed carry license and am supposed to inform you when I’m armed. I’m carrying my pistol in a holster on my belt. How do you want to proceed?”

And just because an officer tells you to do, doesn't mean its the best thing to do. If an officer asks to see your permit, kindly let them know where the handgun is (verbally) as well as the location of the wallet. Play it say and then ask again "How do you want me to proceed?"

If the officer asks you (or tells you) for them to take possession of the handgun "for my safety and for yours", if you are legally obligated or choose to comply with the request- I would ask to step out of the vehicle and for the officer to take it off of your person to eliminate any miscommunications or misimpression of intentions.

Carrying a Gun during traffic stops

Remember, at times there may be another officer on the scene that you may not see. If you are dealing with a calm, cool and collected officer at your driver side window that is undisturbed by you carrying and kindly asks you if he can hold on to that firearm for the duration of that stop and as you are slowly complying- his rookie can't hear the conversation of the road noise- you may get shoot... multiple times.... before he is able to gargle the word GUN!

Long story short, be thoughtful when carrying a gun. Take a second, and think about things like this- before you even leave your house. Have a plan of how to deal with certain situations instead of just flying by the seat of your pants and shooting from the hip (bad pun intended).

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