Recently, a member of our Facebook Group, John, asked a question about firearms. “What to do when you are legally in possession of a firearm and encounter law enforcement?” It’s a great question. It has a lot to do with gun owner safety, as well as your rights when it comes to carrying a firearm. In Massachusetts, there are many lawful gun owners. They have licenses to own and carry their guns. With a license they can carry the gun almost anywhere in Massachusetts. A few exceptions include school grounds and courthouses. Even with a license, you usually can’t carry a firearm in those places. But licensed gun owners are able to carry a gun most places you would go. The gun doesn’t have to be visible. You can conceal it as long as you have the proper license.

First Make Everyone Feel Safe

But what happens when you’re out, have your gun and you get stopped by the police? This might happen when you’re driving and get pulled over for a traffic violation. Or if the police stop you on the street. The most important thing in these situations is to make everybody feel safe. Police are out there every day trying to protect the public. They are putting their lives at risk. They’re on edge sometimes. Worried that someone might hurt them.

If you get pulled over for a traffic violation and have your gun, you should have your license and registration ready for the officer. The put your hands on the steering wheel so that they are visible. When they come to the door immediately tell them you have a gun. Say “officer, I wanted to let you know, I have a license to carry firearms and I have a gun on my hip or in the glove box,” or wherever it is. 

A Little Respect Goes a Long Way

That way you’re letting the officer know and you’re showing him your hands. You’re giving him or her a sign of respect. You’re letting them know that you’re not a threat. And that’s going to put everybody at ease and defuse the situation right away. Sometimes they may ask to see it and that’s okay to show them where it’s at. You’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing to make everyone feel safe.

This isn’t a legal requirement. It’s just common sense. Something to make everyone feel safe. So that everyone walks away from the encounter without any problems. I have done this when I got pulled over and it helps. 

When I told the officer that I was carrying and showed my hands he was very I happy I did. He actually let me go without the ticket, which I definitely deserved. I was going about 90 MPH in a 65 MPH zone. I should have got a pretty big ticket. But he actually let me go because I respected his safety as well as my own. He appreciated that. 

You should do the same thing when stopped on the the street. It’s not a bad idea to say, “Hey, officer, I wanted to let you know, I have a gun. I do have a license.” He may ask to see the license. He may ask to see the gun and, that’s okay. The idea is to make sure that everybody feels safe in that situation. 

As a licensed gun owner in Massachusetts for the past 28 years, I thought that was a great question. It’s a practical approach about gun owner safety and what you should do in such a circumstance. It’s something that could come up for a lot of people. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to call or email me. I’ll be happy to speak with you about it.