Mike Bianchi was carrying a pistol in a holster when police stopped him at a sobriety checkpoint in Berkeley.
The officer didn’t ask if he was carrying a gun, but Bianchi told him anyway.
“By the way, I have my concealed weapons permit,” he said, with his hands firmly on the steering wheel where the officers could see them. He told them the gun was on his right side in a holster. “What do you want me to do?”
“That’s fine,” said the officer. “Just don’t reach for yours and we won’t reach for ours.”
Soon he was on his way.
Bianchi works at Metro Shooting in Bridgeton, where concealed-carry classes are taught. He has heard many stories about traffic stops.
By now, police are used to concealed-carry holders being armed, and there’s rarely a problem, he says.
But that line — “Don’t reach for yours and we won’t reach for ours” — turns up in many stories.
One such stop ended tragically in the Minneapolis area Wednesday night. A suburban police officer shot Philando Castile dead in Castile’s car, while his girlfriend sat beside him and her small child in the back.
Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, began streaming video live on Facebook immediately after the officer fired. In the stream she said Castile was stopped for a broken taillight. He told the officer that he was licensed to carry a handgun and was reaching for his wallet when he was shot, she said.
So what should an armed motorist do when pulled over by police?
The only safe move is not to move at all, said Tim Fitch, the former St. Louis County police chief.
He said the occupants should keep still, with both hands visible, perhaps atop the steering wheel or dashboard. Explain that there is a gun, tell where, and wait for instructions. Then, Fitch said, comply carefully.
“The last thing you want to do is not follow the officer’s instructions,” he warned.
Don’t surprise the cop. Jim Bueermann, a former Redlands, Calif., chief who now heads the Washington-based Police Foundation, tells of one stop that nearly ended badly.
He stopped a man at night for driving with a broken taillight. The driver responded courteously to the officer’s commands, and Bueermann asked jokingly whether the man might have any nuclear weapons.
The man casually opened his jacket to reveal a handgun in a shoulder holster. It changed everything for Bueermann, who drew his own pistol, told the man to keep his hands visible and removed the gun.
Had the man made any unexpected move, Bueermann said, “I probably would have shot him.”
“Just because a guy tells you he’s got a gun doesn’t mean he won’t shoot you,” he noted.
Police don’t have the authority in Missouri to disarm a legally carrying motorist absent suspicion of a crime, says Kevin Jamison, an attorney and author of “Missouri Weapons and Self-Defense Law,” who works with the Western Missouri Shooters Alliance.
But Jamison let a police officer disarm him anyway. He was stopped for speeding and told the officer he had a license to carry.
“He was startled. He said, ‘I’m going to disarm you,’” Jamison recalled.
On the officer’s orders, Jamison got out and the officer unholstered Jamison’s gun.
Why did he comply? “The side of the road is not the place for a constitutional argument,” he said. “The No. 1 rule of police work is that they want to go home.”
Jamison tells people to keep their hands where officers can see them, turn on the overhead light so police can see into the car, and turn off the engine, so officers don’t worry that you might speed away.
Also, he said, say, “I have a license to carry,” rather than “I have a gun.” A second officer, approaching from the other side, might hear the word “gun” and take it as a warning or threat.
“License to carry” is code that the driver is a certified good guy and very unlikely to make trouble,” says Jamison. “Be excruciatingly polite,” he advises.
The officer gave Jamison his gun back, along with a speeding ticket. “He thanked me for being so polite about this,” said Jamison.
Bianchi advises handing over your concealed carry permit along with your driver’s license. “Ninety nine percent of the time, they just hand it back to you,” he said.