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What to do when you interact with law enforcement while armed

Owning a firearm is a great way to protect your family, defend yourself and stay safe. You probably put a lot of effort into ensuring that you handle your firearm safely and responsibly, but you must exercise additional caution when you are armed and interacting with law enforcement. Such situations can escalate quickly, but if you follow protocol, you can enter such interactions calmly and confidently.

Keep the following three tips in mind the next time you encounter law enforcement and have your firearm with you. Being mindful of the situation can help prevent it from escalating and avoid any accidents that could end in the dangerous mishandling of a firearm by yourself or law enforcement.

Know the laws

The first thing to keep in mind when you are interacting with law enforcement is what laws are applicable to your situation. If you are carrying in a gun-free zone, or if you do not have a license, these violations could land you in a lot of trouble. According to the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, gun owners do not legally have a duty to inform officers they are carrying a firearm, but it may be in your best interest to do so.

Disclose your status

Even though you do not legally have to tell a law enforcement officer that you are carrying a firearm, there are a few reasons it may be in your best interest to do so. Disclosing this information might serve to build trust between you and the law enforcement agent you are interacting with, and it can also prevent them from being caught off guard by the presence of a gun and reacting poorly.

Follow any directions

The most important thing to remember is to follow any directions that a law enforcement officer gives you. If an officer tells you to surrender your firearm, do exactly as he or she instructs. Failure to follow directions can easily escalate a situation, and when this involves guns, it can turn fatal.

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