Transporting a gun in your vehicle is something you may not think about if you have a short commute, but there are specific laws to consider before you carry for long trips, especially across state lines. Plus, it’s always a good idea to carry in a way that is safe and effective. Please read our blog below about what you need to know before you concealed carry in your car.
Before you decide to carry in your vehicle, you need to make sure you know the laws of each state you drive through. Concealed carry reciprocity is something to be aware of before traveling across state lines. You shouldn’t have to worry about this for day-to-day travel, but for longer trips, learning each state’s laws is essential to keep yourself out of trouble.
You can still transport your weapons through a state that doesn’t honor your concealed carry license, but state rules differ in how restricted your gun should be in transport and if you need to inform an officer of its presence. Considering state law, there are several options for where you can store your gun.
How to Concealed Carry While Driving
A key to concealed carry while driving is practice. Dry-fire training from a seated position in your car is a great way to prepare for defensive situations from the driver’s seat. Learning how to draw and fire your weapon with one hand is critical for these situations. Dry-fire practice can also help you understand how to operate in the limited space your vehicle cab provides.
Where You Can Store Your Gun
If you are driving through a state that honors your concealed carry permit, you can carry your firearm on your person like you usually would. Some prefer to place their weapon of choice in a spot that is more accessible. For our purposes, we will break down your storage options into two categories: convenience or accessible options and inaccessible options.
Convenience or Accessible Options
- Concealed on Your Person: Whenever you are traveling in a state that honors your concealed carry permit, you can place your firearm wherever you usually would. Sticking with your regular holster might be the option for you if you want to keep your weapon entirely hidden while traveling. The biggest drawback to having your gun on your person is it may be harder to access in case of an emergency.
- Gun Holsters and Holster Mounts: Vehicle holsters and holster mounts allow for the easiest access to your weapon. There are several types of mounts you can use for your vehicle. Two standard placements are the steering wheel column and strapped to the driver’s seat cushion. These places are great if you need your firearm in a pinch.
- Stock Vehicle Storage: Sometimes, the best option is to use what you already have. A lockable glove box or console can work as a place to store your weapon that is accessible but keeps it out of view. If you use this method, it’s essential to put your gun in a holster that covers the trigger to prevent any misfires from other items in your glove box or console.
- Other specialized weapon storage: If you are looking for something accessible, but more secure than a holster or traditional vehicle storage, there are gun safes you can configure to sit next to or under a driver’s seat. Digital combination locks or biometric scans keep your firearms inaccessible to anyone who shouldn’t use them.
If you are looking to transport your firearm of choice through a state with strict firearm laws, here are a few options that can keep your weapon secure. It’s also important to note that some areas vary on how your gun can be stored. Separate containers for ammunition, magazine limits and how assembled your weapon can be are all things to consider.
- Lockable Hard Case: A lockable hard case with a foam liner is usually sufficient for states with strict gun transporting policies. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes, keeping your gun protected from bumps along the road.
- A Trunk Storage System: For top-of-line gun storage you can purchase a firearm storage system to install in the trunk or bed of your vehicle. These are the most secure and can carry your other gear and supplies you want to keep safe.
Concealed Carry Traffic Stops
Once you've figured out a gun storage method for concealment while in the car, you need to make sure you have a plan when a law enforcement officer pulls you over.
There are about 20 million traffic stops in the United States every year. During those stops, there are plenty of law-abiding gun owners who are concealing in their cars. Keep reading for tips on how you should address your concealed firearm when you get pulled over.
How to Tell a Cop You Have a Gun in Your Car: What Are the Rules?
The first thing to know is that you aren't a criminal for having a gun on your person while being pulled over in a traffic stop unless you are specifically prohibited from owning a firearm.
As long as you can legally own a firearm and follow your state's rules for carrying in a vehicle, there's no need to panic.
Exact rules vary between states. Some states mandate that you inform the officer that you are carrying your concealed firearm. Others require that you hand your concealed carry permit to the officer every time you are at a traffic stop. All states ask you to notify an officer if they ask during the stop.
The legality of your carrying situation depends on the state law. If you are traveling through another state, concealed carry reciprocity is something you'll need to consider. You need to be informed of the state's reciprocity and restrictions and gun transportation laws before you travel.
No one likes to be pulled over. We can all justify reasons for speeding or why we haven't fixed that headlight yet. Unfortunately, the officer doesn't know our reasons and is doing their job to enforce the law.
Whether you are carrying or not, you should calmly approach these situations. Officers are on high alert until they can see that you will comply and remain calm during the encounter.
Never panic when you are pulled over and are carrying. While you may feel tense, make sure to stay composed. Raising your voice or making quick movements can increase tension.
Common Sense and Courtesy
If you find yourself in a concealed carry traffic stop, you need to use the same common sense and courtesy you would without your firearm.
- Slow down when the vehicle approaches with lights on
- Move towards the right side of the road, and pull over when it is safe to do so
- Turn the car ignition off
- If it's dark, turn the interior lights on
- Put your hands on the steering wheel and wait for further instructions from the officer
Don't rifle through your glove box, center console or backseat for necessary documentation until you are instructed. Excessive amounts of movement that make you appear to go for a weapon is known as "furtive movement," which will give the officer reasons for suspicion. The officer doesn't know you and doesn't want to be in harm's way. Always wait for instructions first.
Handing Over Your Documentation
Once the officer has come to your window and given you the reason for the traffic stop, they will ask you to provide them with driving documentation like your license and registration. This exchange is usually the best point to inform the officer about your firearm.
NEVER, use the phrase, "I have a gun." An officer can see this phrase as threatening and react. Don't flash your weapon at the officer. Instead, you can go about informing the officer in one of these two ways:
- Hand them your concealed carry permit with your other documentation. This will most likely elicit the question from the officer, "do you have a firearm on you/in your vehicle?" This question will give you a chance to tell them where it is and ask how they want to proceed.
- Calmly tell the officer about your permit and firearm. Emphasis on the word "calmly." You want the officer to know that you are willing to comply with their instructions.
Handing Over Your Firearm
Once you've informed the officer of the firearm, they can handle the situation in a few ways.
- They may ask for you to hand the firearm over to them yourself.
- They may ask you to step out of the vehicle so they can retrieve the firearm.
Regardless, compliance is key to a safe traffic stop. You will receive your weapon after the stop.
Show Respect and Restraint
Law enforcement officers are people too. They want the traffic stop to be safe as well. If you think that the ticket you received was unfair, take your concerns to a traffic lawyer to settle in court. Arguing with an officer at the time of the stop will escalate the situation. If you are carrying a firearm, you shouldn't take chances in a traffic stop. Show restraint and work out the details of the ticket later.
If you plan to carry in your vehicle, always be prepared for proper transportation and contact with law enforcement. Having a plan in place will set you up for success when you concealed carry.
If you are looking for a place to store your firearm while you aren't carrying, give your gun the perfect home with a concealment flag or piece of wall art from Liberty Home Concealment. We have options that can complement a variety of styles while keeping your gun accessible.
*This is not legal advice. For more information on concealed carry traffic stop law, contact your concealed carry instructor, lawyer or local authorities for specifics on your city, county and state rules and regulations.*
This blog was originally posted in February 2020 and was updated in May 2021 to add tips for concealed carry traffic stops.