AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Concerns about how CSRA motorists should react when driving while armed with a Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP) surfaced after a Minnesota woman told the public through a live Facebook video that her boyfriend was shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop while he had a license to carry.
Viewers contacted NewsChannel6 requesting we look into what procedures local law-enforcement uses during traffic stops where motorists are legally armed. We investigated that and how motorists should respond to that officer.
“By law you do not have to disclose that you have a gun in the car,” Buddy Lichty, owner of Shooters in Augusta said.
That’s how it goes in Georgia during a traffic stop. It’s your business unless they ask you. The past week has been an emotional roller coaster for many across the country leaving people in the Peach and Palmetto states with a lot of questions about guns and police.
Federal and Minnesota law enforcement are still investigating Philando Castille’s death. But his girlfriend’s claim that his death came because he was carrying with a CWP during a traffic stop prompted NewsChannel 6 to look into how local law-enforcement deals with the matter.
In Richmond County, “The first thing a motorist should do is comply with what the deputy is saying. If he ask for your license then advise him, “My license is in my wallet, my wallet is in my back pocket. May I retrieve my wallet?” The deputy will tell the motorist yes or no. Advise the deputy that you have a weapon on your person (Or in a purse, under the seat, in the glove box, etc). The deputy will then advise the motorist to keep his hands where he can see their hands while he retrieves the weapon and renders the weapon safe. The deputy will ask questions, which will lead the motorist to give the deputy the reason he / she has the weapon and that he / she a CWP.
Ultimately, the motorist should always comply with the deputy. If a motorist disagrees with the way the deputy is addressing him / her, then the motorist has the right to ask (politely) to speak with the deputy’s supervisor.
However, it is very important for the motorist to always remember that laws are in place for everyone’s protection and there is a legal obligation for the public to adhere to the law and the deputy enforcing the law. Complying and being polite (even if the motorist feels they are not in the wrong as far as being pulled over) is the best way to avoid the traffic stop from escalating to something physical or something that may result in arrest,” said Sgt. Michael Shane McDaniel, Richmond County Sheriff’s Office Internal Affairs / PIO.
Aiken County Sheriff’s Office PIO Eric Abdullah said drivers should, “Present their CWP permit with their identification and inform the officer that you are armed. Follow instructions from that officer. There is no text book answer or step by step instructions .I certainly can not compare any interaction that law enforcement officers in this county to any incidents that occurred beyond our jurisdiction. Simply keep it simple and follow the instructions of the officer.”
Shooters owner Buddy Lichty said be very descriptive.
“My license is in my wallet and its in the same proximity as where my gun is. During this time you want your hands visible. You basically ask that law enforcement person, how do you want me to get my license for you?”
If you are pulled over by a police officer and you have a CWP and a weapon on you at that time, of course if you are a driver you can put your hands on the steering wheel, but what about if you are the passenger? Make sure your hands are in plain view. And guess what? You can even stick them on the dashboard.
“If it’s at night, turn the dome light on. Make sure that they can feel as comfortable as possible walking up to the car because if you turn the dome light on, they can then see there is nobody in the backseat with a sawed off shotgun pointing at me as I’m walking up to the car,” Lichty.
Lichty added hopefully law enforcement will have the driver or passenger get out of the car instead of leaning and reaching for ID. He said the officer may not know your intentions in that case.
North Augusta Department of Public Safety Lt. Tim Thornton told News Channel 6, “A simple answer to a complex question is for all parties involved, officer, vehicle operator, passenger or pedestrian should not do any quick unexpected movements of any kind. Inform Law Enforcement of the CWP and the weapon location then wait for verbal instructions from the officer. Compliance and calm reactions will greatly reduce the risks of escalation.”
Finally, Lt. Jake Mahoney with Aiken Department of Public Safety told us, “South Carolina law states that a concealed weapon permit holder must have his permit identification card in his possession whenever he or she carries a concealable weapon. Pursuant to Article 4, Chapter 31, Title 23 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, a permit holder must inform a law enforcement officer of the fact that he is a permit holder, and present the permit identification card, when an officer identifies himself as a law enforcement officer and requests identification or a driver’s license from a permit holder.
Many concealed weapons holder/law enforcement interactions occur during traffic stops, and if you are legally armed in South Carolina, pursuant to South Carolina law, you have a “duty to inform” the officer.
It is our recommendation that during a traffic stop immediately roll your window down so you do not have to reach out of site when the officer approaches your window. Before the officer approaches make your hands visible by placing your hands high on the steering wheel. Calmly and politely let the officer know that you have a concealed weapon permit (CWP) and that you are armed. Don’t reach for your ID, registration, or insurance cards while the officer is approaching your car or without him asking you to do so. If it’s night time, turn the vehicle’s dome light on to illuminate the inside of the vehicle.
Try not to use the word “gun,” which is a trigger word for law enforcement. Tell the officer, “I’m armed” or “I’m carrying a concealed firearm.” or “I have a pistol”. Do not reach in the area of, or for, the weapon. The officer will ask you where the weapon is located. While keeping your hands on the steering wheel, tell the officer where the weapon is and where your ID is in the vehicle. From that point, do exactly as the officer says.”
Lt. Mahoney also shared topics that must be taught to every CWP holder applicant in South Carolina. The student must initial the form stating they have received training in these subjects.
1) Statutory and case law regarding deadly force
2) SC laws governing firearms and concealed weapons permits
3) Proper firearms storage practices that deny access to children
4) Prohibited carry locations
5) Liability and responsibility issues relating to firearms
6) Proper interaction with Law Enforcement Officers
7) The four cardinal firearm safety rules
8) Handgun safety, manipulation, and operation
9) Basic handgun marksmanship
10) Proper concealment techniques and drawing from concealment
11) Qualification on the range with the Instructor
Additionally, in any encounter with law enforcement, cooperate and do not present yourself as a threat to the officer. The side of the road is not the place or time to argue with the officer. If you feel that you are being wronged, contact the officer’s supervisor after the incident is over or argue your case in court.
Click this link to access South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Concealed Weapons Program. You may find the answers to many questions you may have regarding Concealed carry in South Carolina listed on SLED’s website.