Traffic Stop While Carrying a Handgun in Missouri

Photo courtesey of KHMO Radio

According to Missouri law, any person who is at least 19 years-of-age and not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm can transport a concealable firearm in the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle. No concealed carry permit is required.

If you drive in Missouri with a gun in your car, you need to know how to deal with law enforcement should you ever get stopped for a traffic violation—for your safety and that of the officer.

When you get pulled over, it is important to realize that the officer approaching your window does not know who you are or what evil intentions you may have. He or she is going to be extremely cautious and observant of your every move.

In Missouri, concealed carry gun owners are not required to voluntarily tell a police officer that they have a gun. But most police officers have said sharing that information with them at the start of a traffic stop is a courtesy they would like concealed carry owners to extend.

“It is not required by law to let an officer know that you have a concealed carry or that you are actually armed,” said U.S. Law Shield Independent Program Attorney Deborah Alessi. “It is a courtesy thing, letting them know that you do have a firearm on you or in your vehicle and letting them know where it is as well.”

“However,” Alessi went on to add, “under Section 521.0121 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, if you have a concealed carry licensed and are carrying a gun at that time, you are required to display your license to an officer upon demand.”

“So remember,” Alessi warns, “These roadside encounters – sometimes at night, sometimes in unfamiliar surroundings – combine all sorts of unknowns. Add to these assumptions, fears, and more people carrying firearms, there is the chance for miscommunication and worse.”

Here are some tips for dealing with law enforcement when stopped while carrying a gun in your vehicle.

  • Tip #1: Know your local and state laws
    The State of Missouri does not require you to inform a law enforcement officer you are carrying a concealed handgun, but use your best judgement when you are interacting with police.
  • Tip #2: Hands 10 & 2, Dome light on
    The moment a law enforcement officer pulls you over s/he can and will notice any movement inside of your vehicle. Put your front windows down and remain calm with your hands on the steering wheel in plain sight, until the officer says its ok to reach for your license and registration.
  • Tip #3: Advise the Officer
    You may want to let the officer know that you have a firearm on your person and its location. A phrase that is commonly used is: “Officer, I want you to know that I have a concealed handgun permit and currently have one on my person. How would you like me to proceed?”
    That is much better than saying “I have a gun.” The officer or his partner standing on the other side of the vehicle may just hear the word ‘gun’ and assume that to be a warning or threat, and bad things can result.
  • Tip #4: Display Identification, move slow
    Let the officer advise you when it is okay to reach for your license and registration. Remember move slow and again, before reaching for your driver’s license and permit, advise the officer of the location of your firearm and narrate your action when you start to move. If asked, you must provide your concealed handgun permit at the same time as your identification.
  • Tip #5: You are not being treated like a criminal
    Remember the officer has no idea who you are and with the nature of the job, there are inherent risks associated with it. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Because of this, we feel that the above information is relevant to drivers with concealed handguns and concealed handgun permits.

Alessi adds, “Drivers should try to listen carefully to what the officer is asking and then do it. It is also helpful for the driver to narrate what he’s doing as he’s doing it. And keep a cool head.”

Remember, getting stopped can be a stressful situation for you as well as for the officer involved. Try to remain calm, stay in your vehicle, and turn off the engine so the officer does not have to worry about you driving off.

DO NOT MAKE ANY SUDDEN MOVES! Wait for and follow the officer’s instructions and everyone goes home happy.

Well, maybe not so happy if you got a ticket.