This was an interesting article. I think he makes some great points and cautions police and citizens to use their heads in reference to CCW.
Citizen Concealed Carry Concerns
Coping With Concealed Carry
Posted: January 11th, 2009 10:23 PM GMT-05:00
In my column last month, I talked about some of the trends in the firearms industry and how they affected both individuals and their agencies. Interest in concealed carry is another area that has seen a significant increase in activity by ordinary citizens, presumably because of both the current economic situation and the political climate. People are concerned about a perceived increase in crimes of opportunity, as well as more aggressive behavior by criminals. Applications for concealed carry licenses in Florida, for example, have sky-rocketed and firearms safety training classes generally fill up rapidly. Many people tell me that they are getting their carry permits while they can, in anticipation of the need to carry more as times get tougher.
Overall interest in concealed carry has been increasing throughout the country as more and more states adopt some form of shall issue concealed carry laws. At last count, 38 states now have laws that allow concealed carry by anyone who is not disqualified by some particular problem in their background. These are usually referred to as shall issue states. 10 states still have discretionary issue laws, but in some of these states there are few, if any, permits actually granted. There are two states, Illinois and Wisconsin, that do not have any provisions for lawful concealed carry.
In addition, the passage of the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, originally known as H.R. 218 when it was passed by the U.S. Congress in 2004, has opened up more concealed carry to qualified active and retired police officers. As more and more agencies are complying with the provisions of that law, their personnel are becoming more inclined to carry concealed weapons for their own protection and the protection of others. There are also more and more states that are entering into reciprocity agreements to recognize permits issued to residents of other states, as well as some states that have provisions for issuing permits to non-residents. My home state of Florida, for example, not only issues permits to non-residents, but has reciprocity with 33 other states as well. On top of all of the concealed carry states, there are also a number of states that permit open carry, under at least some circumstances. All of this means, of course, that the potential for law enforcement officers to encounter lawfully armed citizens is increasing nationwide.
Such potential, however, also increases the possibility of dangerous interactions between the police and the public. When you consider the number of mistaken identity problems that already occur with off duty or plainclothes officers, you can see that some prior thought and planning is necessary to react appropriately and professionally to the situation. Most officers that I've talked with about civilian concealed carry support the concept, but do have legitimate concerns about what could happen when their duties bring them into contact with such lawfully armed citizens.
I deliberately use the term lawfully armed citizen because it is necessary to differentiate between those folks and people who are armed for criminal purposes. Some officers seem to feel that anyone who is armed is either a criminal or a potential criminal, and react accordingly. In some cases this leads to over-reaction and some very unpleasant consequences. It does make your job more difficult when you have to decide how to react to someone who is lawfully armed, but this is just one more area that requires decisions made based on the totality of the circumstances at hand. When I did a seminar, Coping With Concealed Carry, about this several years ago at the last ASLET (American Society for Law Enforcement Trainers) annual conference, most people understood that you can't do a felony take-down of anyone you meet that happens to be armed. As with other aspects of police work, the circumstances dictate the response, and people who are not acting in any illegal or threatening manner cannot be subjected to arbitrary actions simply in response to exercising their legal rights.
Some states have attempted to assist with this by passing laws that establish what is required when such meetings occur. Some states, for example, require that people carrying concealed weapons must notify an officer they are carrying when any contact is initiated, for any reason. Some states do not. Some states have their drivers license and vehicle registration systems linked to their carry permit data bases. Some do not. Some agencies have developed policies for such encounters, but some seem to leave it up to the individual officers. My recommendation is that each agency needs to have a consistent policy, based on applicable laws in each jurisdiction, that is understood and followed by their officers. It also needs to be a policy that can be articulated to the public, so they know what to expect and what is expected of them.
I tried to come up with some broad guidelines for both sides of the equation and found that there were three things for each side that are nearly identical, depending on your perspective. From a police standpoint, I think these three things are reasonable to expect from any armed citizen:
First, the armed citizen should know and follow the laws that are applicable in their state or particular circumstance. Choosing to be armed in society is a serious responsibility and before you do so I think you have an obligation to know what the laws are and to follow them. This is an area where agencies can help everyone by having information or training available for the public, so that people can get the information they need as easily as possible. Yes, there are going to be some yahoos out there that don't want to make the effort to thoroughly understand their responsibilities, but the information needs to be available, as least.
Second, I think that lawfully armed citizens must comply with the instructions of any officers that they encounter. Simply put, do what the nice police officer tells you to do.
Third, don't do anything stupid. This is probably the tough one and is admittedly sort of a catch-all that depends on the circumstances at the time. Unfortunately, many of the mistaken identity shooting of police officers by police officers are the result of not understanding that armed people have a serious obligation to have their brain cells front-and-center at all times.
From the citizen's perspective, I think there are three things that are reasonable for the armed citizen to expect from the police.
First, the police should know and follow the law. Sounds familiar, yes? You'd be surprised how many officers don't know what the laws are that apply to carrying firearms in their jurisdictions. I've heard some things said by officers that are simply made up on the spot. Law enforcement officers must know and follow the laws, just like the citizens. Agencies are responsible for ensuring proper training and officers are responsible for properly applying the law. I can assure you that many people who are carrying have researched the law and some know it better than the officers. It's good that the citizens make that effort, and it is essential that the police do their homework as well. If this doesn't happen, I expect to see an increase in lawsuits when officers violate the law themselves, whether unintentionally or otherwise. One thing I always try to get across to officers whom I talk with is that citizens are doing their research and it can be embarrassing, at the very least, when the citizen knows more about the law than they do.
Second, then, the instructions that officers give the lawfully armed citizen must be legitimate and based on the law. If the citizen is going to do what the nice police officer tells him to so, the nice police officer has the obligation to give the correct instructions.
Finally, the same caution applies to the officer: don't do anything stupid. If everyone is using their heads, there should not be any problems, regardless of the circumstances. This includes if an armed citizen has actually had to use the gun for self defense. My seminar went into a lot of detail about this, but there isn't room for that here. Suffice it to say that if shots have been fired, things really escalate and the potential for mistakes rises exponentially. Tactics for police response to these types of incidents are very involved, as are the appropriate actions by someone who has had to use deadly force in self defense.
Again, a proactive approach by all concerned can help prevent dangerous situations from turning into tragedies. The closest corollaries that we have are the mistaken shootings of off duty or plainclothes officers, by responding officers, in the aftermath of deadly force encounters. The same sort of tragedies can occur with armed citizens.
Obviously, this is just a broad overview of the kinds of things that I try to teach to both police officers and ordinary citizens who feel the need to be armed in public. The devil, as they say, is in the details. My purpose here is to try to get everyone thinking before the need for action arrives. As more and more people make the choice to carry firearms for self defense, there will be more potential for police interaction with lawfully armed members of the public. Being prepared and treating the situation, and each other, with the necessary respect will go a long way to minimizing the inherent dangers. Please, be careful and be safe.