Perhaps one of the most discussed areas of the law portion is where the gun can be when you’re in the car. Laws are often interpreted differently and sometimes sorted out only by the decision of a judge. And then maybe an appeals court. And it could go higher. In my class, whenever there is a law leaving such room for interpretation I tend to error on the side of caution for the good of the student. My goal after all for all of my students is first to help them survive an encounter, and second to not go to jail in doing so.
Having been a police officer I’ve had to make such interpretations in the field, I’m sure I read some laws differently than others might have, and in the end it’s the job of the courts to sort them out. Yet, when as a police officer you make such an interpretation someone can go to jail, be searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and deprived of their liberty. Because of this I did my very best to be sure and tried to error on the side of caution.
Now I’m a firearms and concealed carry instructor and I’m still erring on the side of caution but from a citizens standpoint and not a police officers. It’s very different. I never want to learn that some otherwise law abiding citizen was arrested and worse charged.. because of something they learned in my class.
The statute in question reads “the gun must be on or about” the permit holder. I’ve always taken that to mean “attached” to the license holder in some way. By holster, waistband (bad idea), pocket, somewhere where it’s strictly under the control of the licensee. For a lady if in a purse, then the purse must not be in the seat beside you, but strapped around your body as if you were carrying it.
In the class, people reading this statute would often say “about” could mean on the seat beside you, or elsewhere in the car. I’ve known other instructors would teach this both ways. There are few I really believe know the law better than the rest of us and we recently exchanged some emails and sure enough, “about” could mean on the seat next to you, in between seats, in the glove box. Preferably hidden from sight so there no “HE’S GOT A GUN!” incidents.
Keep in mind that no matter what a concealed weapons instructor tells you, the call will still be made in the field by the police officer. How is t heir training and what does their training say about this matter? I don’t know. Let me throw yo some curve balls:
You the permit holder is in the car and a loaded handgun you own is sitting in the seat next to you covered by a towel and no one else is in the car. I’d guess you’d be fine if stopped. But, what if there was someone else in the back seat who could reach the gun? What if it were a child? What if you had four guns which you owned tucked beneath each seating position which would be fine when you’re in the car alone, but now your unlicensed wife and her unlicensed parents got in the car. Now what? Everyone can reach a gun, but they’re your guns, and they’re (with a bit of twisting and reaching) “about you” in the car? What if the police officer encountered one permit holder, four guns in the car, and four passengers who are known gang affiliates?
Can you see the problem a police officer might have sorting this out in his mind? I sure can because I’ve been a police officer and I wouldn’t blame him/her either way. It’s a judgment call. And your liberty. Always remember that, you might be right as rain, but still go to jail and be charged and have to spend a fortune on an attorney. The police officer won’t be punished to it won’t bother them at all. But how about you, how do you feel about being right then?
So what am I going to teach in my classroom tomorrow morning when this subject is broached? I’m going to advise the “most certain” way to not have an issue is to carry the gun on you. But if you must take it off your body (where tactically it could be more readily accessible) I’d either only do so when no one else is in the car, or I’d put it between myself and the car door where other occupants of the car would not have access.
A caution: It’s human nature to think if there’s an “out” that they’ll get away with abusing the hell out of it. I wouldn’t do so in this case. This is a very serious matter and unless you like the booking process I wouldn’t push it.
Another caution: You know a cop, or your wife is a cop. She tells you it’s okay to blah blah blah.. You’re good right? Only if your wife will be the one stopping you. Police officers often interpret a law differently. It’s up to you to decide your level of caution and to exercise all the common sense you were blessed with.
Until next time..