“Officer, I have a gun”, could possibly be the last words you ever speak. Okay, 1st lets back up a bit. Mr John Doe just got pulled over for some reason and being nervous he is trying to declare he has a legally carried handgun or rifle in his vehicle or on his person.
The topic this week will cover how to properly deal with Law Enforcement when a handgun is on or about your person. These points will cover both License To Carry holders and non license holders.
Who can legally carry a fire arm in their vehicle or on their person?(In Texas)
Texas Penal Code – PENAL § 46.02. Unlawful Carrying Weapons
(a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carries on or about his or her person a handgun, or club if the person is not:
(1) on the person’s own premises or premises under the person’s control; or
(2) inside of or directly en route to a motor vehicle or watercraft that is owned by the person or under the person’s control.
(a-1) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carries on or about his or her person a handgun in a motor vehicle or watercraft that is owned by the person or under the person’s control at any time in which:
(1) the handgun is in plain view; or
(2) the person is:
(A) engaged in criminal activity, other than a Class C misdemeanor that is a violation of a law or ordinance regulating traffic or boating;
(B) prohibited by law from possessing a firearm; or
(C) a member of a criminal street gang, as defined by Section 71.01 .
The above Penal Code states you are allowed to carry a handgun in your vehicle provided it is CONCEALED unless you are a license holder and your gun is visible but in a belt or chest worn holster. For the later you must be wearing the holster. The gun in a holster thrown on your seat, dash or consul is illegal.
Now that we understand our legal limitations and right to carry, lets go back to the traffic stop. It is only a matter of time before you might be carrying a handgun on or about your person and those pretty blue lights show up behind you. Other than immediately pulling over when safe to do so what should your actions be.
Before you answer the question put yourself in the Officers shoes for a second. Understand that there is no such thing as a routine traffic stop. Here are just a few things the Officer is responsible for the second you are pulled over.
The offenders safety, passengers safety, traffic, pedestrians’ in the immediate area, the offenders vehicle, the officers vehicle, correctly identifying the violation you were pulled over for, and last but not least the officers own safety.
Those responsibilities normally cause an officer to be in a very hyper-vigilant state of mind. That hyper-vigilance is conducive to the officer’s survival. They will notice things. Very small things to you and I will seem very suspicious to them, and that’s okay. They are doing their job.
Now as responsible citizens let’s do our job to help ensure our safety and the officer’s. Some of the information stated next is required by law, and some is just suggested.
Now back to the stop. When you are pulled over and have stopped; Do Not make any quick or erratic movements. (these are known to LEO’s as fervent) Fervent movements could be probable cause for search or further escalate the officers concern.
Most modern vehicles have electronic windows. You can easily activate your window control and roll your windows down without making “furtive” movements. Did you catch that I said windows? Yes plural. Roll all your windows down so the officer can see into your vehicle. If it’s dark turn your dome light on and then keep your hands visible.
Let the officer approach and follow his lead. Do NOT try and help things along by retrieving your license, ins. Etc before he asks for it. Why? He/she doesn’t know what you are reaching for. So far these are all suggestions but we are about to get too required by law actions.
The Officer will most likely introduce him/her self and ask you for your license and registration. The law states you must present your license/ID when asked and as LTC holders you must present your LTC as well if you are Carrying.
Texas Government Code – GOV’T § 411.205. Requirement to Display License
If a license holder is carrying a handgun on or about the license holder’s person when a magistrate or a peace officer demands that the license holder display identification, the license holder shall display both the license holder’s driver’s license or identification certificate issued by the department and the license holder’s handgun license.
A few hints on your ins. Registration, license and other paperwork. Keep them handy in a place AWAY from where you conceal your handgun. You don’t want to have to lift your gun out of the glove box because your paper work is underneath it. If you have to get anywhere near your gun to retrieve a requested item, let the officer know and follow his directions. (my personal opinion is too notify officers of my handgun and its locationas a curtisy) Once you have supplied the required items requested again follow any directives given by the officer. The key action here is complying and respect. Unfortunately there is good and bad with anything and anyone and Law Enforcement is not an exception. Should you find yourself on the wrong end of a Officer with an attitude, maybe not familiar with the carry laws,(yes it happens) or just a pigeon chested cop on a power trip, again comply and respect. As hard as it might be, suck it up and be the nicest most compliant person on the planet. You are most likely being recorded by numerous devices visually, and with audio. These situations happen way less than the media portrays however it is worth mentioning. Even if you end up taking an unjustified ride or even wrongful arrest, COMPLY. In the end a supervisor, judge, lawyer or even the audio/video will come into play and wrongful actions from either side will come to light.
Lastly if a handgun does come into play visually or by admission (you are not required to disclaim your legally carried handgun on or about your person by law) and the officer feels the safety of anyone involved including his/hers, he/she may temporarily take control of your fire arm.
Texas Government Code – GOV’T § 411.207. Authority of Peace Officer to Disarm
(a) A peace officer who is acting in the lawful discharge of the officer’s official duties may disarm a license holder at any time the officer reasonably believes it is necessary for the protection of the license holder, officer, or another individual. The peace officer shall return the handgun to the license holder before discharging the license holder from the scene if the officer determines that the license holder is not a threat to the officer, license holder, or another individual and if the license holder has not violated any provision of this subchapter or committed any other violation that results in the arrest of the license holder.
Once the stop has been concluded and there is no arrest, your handgun will be returned to you. It is important to understand that if an officer takes control of your handgun, the first thing he will do is clear it and render it safe. In other words unload it. When he/she returns it to you it will NOT be loaded. Allow the officer to depart the area before you load it again. Remember the officer will be in a hyper vigilant state. The situation has just been de-escaladed and the sound of a slide locking forward after a magazine locked into place probably isn’t the best thing to put out there.
Hope these very simple tips help keep you and Officer’s safe.