Being pulled over by the police is always a stressful event, even if he just wants to let you know that your tail light is out. But if you are carrying a legal concealed weapon, a routine traffic stop can make you even more anxious. You don’t want the cop to see your gun and get the wrong idea, or any idea other than that you are an ordinary citizen exercising his or her right to carry a firearm.
Do I Have to Tell the Officer I Am Armed?
Each state has its own laws concerning your “duty to inform” police that you are carrying. In Texas, you are legally obligated to hand over your concealed carry license along with your driver’s license and car registration. At that time, the officer will likely ask you if you are carrying at the moment, allowing you to tell him or her whether you have your gun holstered out of sight. Mostly, this is where conversation about your gun will end, and the officer will proceed with telling you that your tail light it out.
Tips on How to Handle a Traffic Stop When You Are Armed
Of course, the world isn’t perfect, so here are some tips on how to make your traffic stop go as smoothly as possible when you are carrying a weapon:
- Remain calm. Even if you are sure you weren’t speeding and are now going to be late to your niece’s bat mitzvah, keep a cool head. The calmer you are, the faster and more pleasant the exchange will be.
- Be polite. Yes, it is your right to have a concealed gun, but being rude about it isn’t going to help anything, and might make you seem like a threat even when you’re not. Guns can make people nervous, so do your best to keep everything civil.
- Know the law, especially if you are traveling out of state. In order to get a license to carry a concealed handgun, you must complete a safety training course which will cover all of the Texas gun laws. This will include when and where you are legally allowed to carry, so pay attention.But if you are traveling out of state, be sure to check into the concealed carry laws before you buckle your holster. Some states, for example, require you to tell an officer immediately that you are carrying, even before he or she asks for your license and registration. In others, you may be allowed to carry your handgun, but not have it concealed in your car. In others, you don’t have to say anything, although it is usually a sign of respect to do so anyway.
Texas has something of a reputation when it comes to firearms, and you are perfectly free to exercise your right to carry a concealed weapon if you meet all the legal requirements and have an active license to do so. However, guns do tend to be something of a hot button issue, so if the state has deemed you responsible enough to be trusted with a gun, prove it. Follow the law and inform any cop who pulls you over that you have a weapon. Then get your tail light fixed.
Two of our criminal law attorneys at Julian, Crowder & Shuster, P.C. are former police officers, and can advise you of your Texas rights.