Should You Tell The Cops You Have A Gun?

BY Herschel Smith
11 months ago

Jacob Sullum at Reason:

The fatal shooting of Philando Castile last year by a Minnesota police officer reinvigorated an old debate about how people who are licensed to carry a concealed weapon (CCW) should handle interactions with the cops. The officer, who was acquitted of manslaughter in June, panicked during a traffic stop after Castile, a CCW licensee, told him he was armed.

Some gun owners argue that disclosure is considerate and prudent, while others worry it will escalate a routine traffic stop into a tense, unpleasant, and possibly life-threatening encounter. But virtually everyone agrees it’s important to know the relevant legal requirements, which vary from state to state.

Jacob has included a nice graphic with his article outlining what states require immediate notification of LEOs that you’re lawfully carrying.

That phrase may be important, and if you ever have to inform a LEO that you are carrying a weapon, you should use the phrase “lawfully carrying.”

I’m interested in reader reaction to this question.  I don’t believe that a LEO has a right to know that.  Whether something is legal has no bearing on whether it is moral, and informing LEOs that you are carrying can keep you out of a world of problems.

On the other hand, informing a LEO that you’re carrying can also cause a world of problems due to the paranoid schizophrenic culture that is ubiquitous through police departments today.  Even if a LEO doesn’t think you are out to kill him, he may want to do something completely ignorant and “take possession of your weapon to ensure safety.”  No one should touch their weapons, not you, not him.  It isn’t safe for him to touch your weapon.  He also shouldn’t unholster and point his weapon at you, as both actions violate rules of gun safety (having to do with muzzle and trigger discipline).

The police have created this problem.  We live with it.


  1. On September 18, 2017 at 3:10 am, DAN III said:

    I EDC a 9mm pistol, a Gerber automatic, a pocket clip flashlight and my car keys. They are my common tools. All of which a badged thug could call a weapon. Why would I tell the dolt I am armed with a pistol ? Do I also tell him I have an automatic knife or a metal-case flashlight with a jagged bezel or that my car keys have a dangerous, GI P-38 attached (I once had a deputy sheriff tell me my P-38 can opener was a razor) ?

    In essence, one is giving up their 4th Amendment protection from search and seizure when they volunteer they have ANYTHING in their possession. Just remember….

    There Are No Good Cops.

  2. On September 18, 2017 at 4:49 am, Roger J said:

    Cops in Georgia just shot dead a female student with a closed Leatherman-type tool in her hand. Clearly disturbed, she was attempting to provoke them into “suicide by cop”, and as is typical in these cases, she succeeded. Considering the hair-trigger reactions and paranoid mentality of police these days, my answer is “no” – do not volunteer this information unless your state law requires it. On the one occasion in the last 40 years that I received a traffic ticket, I was in Virginia, a state which does not require the officer to be informed of a legally carried concealed weapon. So I didn’t inform the officer, and everything went well except the traffic fine (and court costs, which were higher than the fine.)

  3. On September 18, 2017 at 6:09 am, Sean said:


  4. On September 18, 2017 at 7:03 am, Fred said:

    Generally, no. And never ever use the word GUN. But it also depends. If I’m unfortunate enough to be changing a tire and a cop stops to assist I would tell him because he’s gonna see the weapon while I’m working. Also, it depends on how you carry. If you do ‘deep concealment’ or whatever silly term it’s called that’s different than if you carry like me. Even to the casual observer I’m armed. I only ‘hide’ the weapon because that is our custom in my state (some do open carry as do I from time to time) not the law. Routine traffic stop, no. If the cop comes to passenger side for traffic safety, yes, he’ll likely see the weapon. It depends on how you carry, the behavior of the cop, the surroundings, whether on foot or driving or bike, with family. It just depends.

    I have no plan other than to immediately analyze the situation and decide then. This is bad advice however, please have a plan.

  5. On September 18, 2017 at 9:22 am, Henry Anderson said:

    MN law only requires a permit holder with a firearm to answer if directly asked by an officer. So it is simple, if they don’t ask, don’t tell.

  6. On September 18, 2017 at 9:32 am, John C Taylor said:

    I may or may not have carried concealed for decades without a permit. For reasons unimportant to this discussion, I finally obtained one. NC law requires immediate disclosure, so that is what I will do. But the whole situation makes me more than a little uneasy in these uncertain times.

  7. On September 18, 2017 at 9:41 am, Dirk said:

    Crap shoot. Personal choice, this day and age, I would say nothing. Be polite courteous, but not talkative. Understand that in most states, if the officer runs your driver’s license, dispatch will advise them of your CCW lawful permit to carry.

    Most states flag the permit, via Wants/warrants requests, for two reasons. One to advise the officer you are legal to carry, and then the obvious, to que the officer that a gun could be present.


  8. On September 18, 2017 at 10:02 am, Toweser said:

    It seems to me the perspective on this question is from the wrong side. My primary objection to the “duty to inform” legislation is it encourages LEOs to “assume” someone is unarmed unless told otherwise. Okay, so, someone with murderous intent is going to say “Oh, by the way, I am carrying a concealed weapon.” Yeah. Right. Right before they open fire that is.

    I will obey the law and inform when necessary but I will not volunteer the information. Once, when my vehicle was broken down, a trooper pulled up behind me. He was professional and helpful. He did not ask. I did not offer. My concern was resolving the situation at hand, as was his. To this day, I do not know if he realized I was carrying. As far as I am concerned it had no bearing on the situation.

  9. On September 18, 2017 at 10:03 am, Towser said:

    Sorry, it is Towser. Can’t tpy, tepy, tyyep, TYPE!

  10. On September 18, 2017 at 11:35 am, Tony said:

    I’m in NC. I keep it low key and don’t say anything – I just hand the officer my CCW permit with my license and registration. When they ask where it is, I answer the question, shut up, and avoid sudden moves. No problems so far.

  11. On September 18, 2017 at 12:19 pm, Jack said:

    I’ve watched the Castillo incident numerous times. After Castillo informs the cop that Castillo has a gun, Castillo starts to move. The cop can be heard saying don’t reach for it, don’t touch it. But Castillo ignores this instruction. Whether or not he was reaching for the gun, the cop couldn’t see his hands, and sees movement.

    The real issue is not disclosure, but behavior.

    When I was a (much) younger man, I tended to drive sports cars, and often left work in the dead of night. I was routinely hassled by both VA and MD state police, who would follow me for 10 or 15 miles before stopping me for BS charges.

    Whenever I was stopped by a patrolman the would have hands on their guns (usually, but not always holstered).

    I found that the best approach was always to have both hands on the steering wheel, and to inform the cop about movements before making them.

    I.e., “My registration and insurance card are in the glove box. May I get them for you?”

    I’m an NC resident, and thus have a duty to inform (I believe this applies out of state as well). While I have yet to be stopped while carrying, if it happens, I will place both hands on the steering wheel and say:

    “I have a concealed carry permit. I have a holstered firearm on my right hip. I will not touch it during our conversation.”

  12. On September 18, 2017 at 9:19 pm, Sam Helm said:

    Roger J: That “female” (who actually identified as “them”) was born with and died with a penis. He advanced on the police after being told several times to stop, refused to drop his weapon, and was asking the police to kill him. It MAY have been a justified shoot. I don’t know, but I am sure the story will eventually come out. The GBI seems to generally do a good job, even when the police are at fault.

  13. On September 19, 2017 at 6:21 pm, Jim Wiseman said:

    The law-abiding in NC have a “duty to inform.” This of course doesn’t apply to felons, who would be incriminating themselves by doing so.

    Which raises an interesting question. If I am, let’s say, inadvertently carrying in a restricted area and am “approached” (what exactly does that mean again?) by an LEO, am I not being compelled by state law to incriminate myself in violation of my Fifth Amendment right?

  14. On September 22, 2017 at 2:23 pm, Bob57 said:

    Wisconsin concealed carry law requires that the drivers license database and concealed carry database are entirely separate. So if you are legally carrying in Wisconsin when you are pulled over, the LEO won’t know whether you are a CCW holder. My CCW class was run by two ex-Milwaukee PD guys. I asked whether it would be prudent to offer the CCW card with the DL when pulled over, and was given a stern ‘NO’. The truth is that while the vast majority of the LEOs are 2nd amendment guys, there are a significant number who believe civilians should not have that privilege.
    The last time I was pulled over, I was carrying, but since the LEO never asked nor did he ask me to step out of the vehicle, I said nothing. He never asked and all was well.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Police and was published September 17th, 2017 by Herschel Smith.

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