Gunleaders Blog

Oppression 101: How to use the traffic stop to be a bully

by on Nov.22, 2011, under Uncategorized

In TTAG lingo, our response might be:  Chris Fusaro is insane… but let’s not get carried away.  He’s offering perspective on traffic stops, a question routinely brought up by noobs & experienced people who carry firearms alike.  We have all too frequently heard the opening line “I support the 2nd Amendment, I’m a life long hunter, shooter, you name it….  BUT…”

Here is Chris’s version:  ”Before I became a law enforcement officer I had a concealed carry permit.”

This is meant to gain sympathy & empathy from the non-law enforcement reader.

There’s the ‘traffic stops are dangerous (to us)’ meme:

“For a cop, every traffic stop is a dangerous situation. While most traffic stops are routine encounters with law abiding citizens, they can also become deadly situations for all parties involved, with little or no warning at all.”

For a cop, driving is more dangerous , traffic stop danger is blown way out of proportion for political & PR games, and the traffic stop is way more dangerous to someone being stopped – particularly those of Chris’s mindset than any actual danger to law enforcement.  Most traffic stops are “gateway encounters” for revenue generation or fishing for bigger, jucier charges to bring, particularly if they’re drug related.

This is particularly enlightening -

“As they approach the occupant(s), the officer’s eyes should be on the driver‘s side mirror; watching the driver watch them approach. Their hand should be [instinctively] placed on the handle of their gun.

Some drivers view this as a threat or insult. Officers are trained to have their firearm at hand to limit the thought process of what they have to do if they’re confronted with a lethal threat. If the officer’s trainer is worth his or her salt, the officer learns to perform this hand placement so that the driver never knows it’s occurring.”

Where I come from that’s called “brandishing”.  In fact, thinking back into the half a dozen or so encounters of this sort I have had with the modern day revenuers, I’ve never observed any LEO doing this to me.  It’s not an “insult”, it’s a crime.  You can plead “training” and danger all you want, but reverse the situation Chris – Do you want your brothers & sisters in blue bringing lethal force to a traffic stop involving your MOM?  Your SISTER?  Your DAUGHTER?

[edit to add / clarify]  Our position here is not iron clad, or etched in stone.  There are certainly going to be some cases in which this level of preparation is prudent, but very, very few and it should not be the “default” posture.

Regardless, if you see an officer hand on their gun coming at you do you feel safe?  Do you feel threatened?  Context is important here, obviously if a cop is just “milling about smartly” and resting his hands while talking to someone or a group of people, probably no issue there.  On the other hand if the officer, deputy or other LEO is approaching you, eyes on you, hand on their gun and you have done no crime what is your thought pattern?

If you’re legally obliged or want to inform the police about your CCW permit, simply hand your permit to the police with your driver’s license and insurance certificate (where appropriate). It’s best to keep your permit next to your license to avoid an uncomfortable (for both of you) delay.

If the police officer asks you to surrender your weapon, do NOT immediately reach for it. In most cases, the officer will tell you how he or she would like you to transfer your gun. They will tell you to exit the vehicle, ask the location of the firearm and remove it themselves.

Chris makes a point that he is squarely in the “take the weapon from the citizen” camp.

Be aware: if you do disclose, many police officers, including myself, will ask to hold the gun for safe keeping during the stop…

This is good discussion for a criminal defense attorney knowledgeable in firearms law in your respective state.  Regardless of the local & state law and the custom, this IS INSANE.  This practice ensures additional risk of injury or death.  Every reputable source on safe gun handling makes the point that handling the gun unnecessarily is bad.  This is no exception.  This custom, practice or whatever term you want to give it to take a weapon from an otherwise law abiding citizen at a traffic stop – absent any articulable threat is irresponsible and stupid.  If there are passengers in the vehicle this danger is increased.

Here is possibly the most outlandish part:

Let’s say your weapon is seized at a traffic stop and during the seizure the officer takes your cocked and locked 1911 from your holster but is unfamiliar with it’s manual of operations or basic gun safety.  He/she negligently discharges a round into your infant daughter in the back seat, killing her.

The officer is generally immune from prosecution and civil liability in that ( intentionally inflammatory example ) homicide under the “qualified immunity” doctrine.  Although that example is extreme, there have been reports of exactly this happening.  A similar discharge by an officer happened in this case but it was his own gun that “just went off” (when he pulled the trigger), which led to tragic results.

On the driver’s side of the equation, it’s best to switch on your hazard lights as soon as you know you’re being pulled. Decelerate slowly and drive smoothly to a safe place to stop: someplace well-lit and removed from traffic. [Note: this is especially true for women drivers who are alone.] If this takes a while, it takes a while; your hazard lights indicate your willingness to stop.

A note on the hazard lights, particularly if you’re on a multi-lane highway.  If you need to cross more than one lane of traffic the hazards override your turn signals on some cars; meaning if you hit the turn signal lever after turning on the hazard flashers it does nothing.  Both front and rear lights flash, rather than one indicating your intended direction change.  People might know you have a problem, but have no idea what your “intention” is on changing lanes.  However, the important part of this advice above is telling.  Why do you need to be concerned about being in a well lit place, especially women drivers if you’re being pulled over by a police officer?   If they need to be worried about these concerns, they probably shouldn’t be turning a firearm over to anyone.

Changing this attitude is a difficult task but one that must be undertaken.  Start with a formal complaint about the officer endangering your safety and that of your passengers needlessly.  If you have a local paper, offer to write an op ed or letter to the editor about the officer’s reckless and dangerous conduct.  Start the discussion and keep the discussion going.  If you have a pro right to keep and bear arms group or groups local to you, ask them for help.  Lots of these groups have officers as members, on their boards, in their voting societies and they may be able to get the training updated to a more modern and respectful standard.  Respect is something you earn and when you treat everyone you encounter professionally as a felon or potential felon, you can expect to be treated in an equal and opposite disrespectful manner.


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