Unlike Philando Castile, the concealed carry permit holder shot by police in Minnesota yesterday while allegedly reaching for his wallet during a traffic stop, I have survived two encounters with authorities while armed. Once was because of equipment failure in a car and the other for speeding on my motorcycle. This is my advice on dealing with such situations and come out alive, at least in Oregon. Other states may have different specific laws.
First of all, I belong to the ruling class skin color. That’s of no benefit pointing out to anyone who isn’t, but it’s a privilege I’ve enjoyed, most valuably during that brief, grimy sliver of life when a police officer is deciding to either stay cool or unload four hollow points into you. As we should all know by now, Black and Brown people end up dead far more often following minor encounters with law enforcement.
My next tip is practical and something anyone can use. The officer who taught my Concealed Handgun License class years ago called the CHL a “Good Guy” card and said most cops who see it will immediately relax. It means the person they are interacting with passed a background check recently and probably doesn’t get into trouble.
However, just because someone keeps the card in their wallet doesn’t mean they should broadcast the fact up front. My instructor assured us that some officers are oversensitive and even if a sentence begins: “Sorry for speeding. I have a gun and the permit for it…” there’s a chance the only thing they heard is “I have a GUN” and take your words as a threat.
There’s no legal need to even let an Oregon cop know at all, however, I was told sharing that information is a curtesy most will appreciate. Still, some strategy is involved. First, don’t use the word GUN period. Don’t even mention the subject at first. During a traffic stop, running your license plate may turn up the information, but unless the officer brings it up initially, keep quiet on the issue.
Next, when the officer asks for your drivers license, hand it over, but pass the CHL along with it. That way the news comes with a symbol of your compliance and there’s no chance of being misunderstood. The next question will probably be if you are armed currently. After this, you’re best using your own judgment, but obviously keep still and avoid making quick movements or being a smartass. It’s about surviving, not exercising the 1st Amendment.
The first time this happened to me, the cop was very jovial and wanted to chat firearms with me immediately. My card immediately put him at ease. Best case scenario. The second time I wasn’t as fortunate. The officer got very tense upon seeing my CHL and asked to take my pistol while we conversed. I wasn’t under arrest or any obligation to let him, but I submitted anyway. Judgment call. He reached into my pocket, removed the 9mm handgun and put it in his car, returning it after writing out the speeding ticket.
Those are my only first hand experiences, but stories I’ve heard from others are similar. If you carry, be smart about it, not just during law enforcement encounters. We live in a world where people are treated very differently because of how they look and sometimes that has fatal consequences. Don’t become the next tragic cell phone video.