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3 Reasons Duty to Inform Law is Awful

Today, 11 states and the District of Columbia have some form of duty to inform or duty to notify law, which requires a citizen stopped by law enforcement,  notify or inform the officer he or she is carrying a concealed firearm. In Fourteen other states, the citizen only has to notify the officer if the officer asks. Here are 3 reasons I think these laws are harmful, dangerous, and even bordering on unconstitutional.

duty to inform / duty to notify

A Brief Explanation of Duty no Inform Law

First, I'll briefly explain what duty to inform laws are. If you want an in-depth explanation, you can read this post from Jacob or even Josh's experience of being pulled over while carrying his everyday carry EDC handgun.

In general, duty to inform laws requires that when detained by law enforcement (pedestrian or in a motor vehicle), the concealed carrier notify the officer that they are carrying their firearm with them. There are various repercussions for failing to inform the officer ranging from temporary suspension of the license, complete revocation, and fines.

As mentioned above, some duty to inform laws simply require that you tell the officer you have a firearm with you only after they ask you.

Supports of the law say:

These laws are just common courtesy to law enforcement. After all, they have a tough job, and if we're not doing anything wrong, what's the harm in notifying them about your handgun?

This train of thought actually brings me to my first issue with such laws.

duty to inform

#1 It isn't an officer safety issue:

I was a patrol cop for around 8 years in a busy, crime-filled city. I must have made a couple thousand traffic and pedestrian stops. Officers working the streets should always use wise officer safety tactics, and part of that is learning body language and pre-assault indicators. In other words, when stopping a gang-banging parole, I didn't assume that since he didn't tell me, he had a gun, that he couldn't be armed. Officer safety has to do with the individual officer's actions, not based on what the detained person says or doesn't say.

Suppose an officer can articulate that they believe the person lawfully detained is a risk to them. In that case, they have the authority to place cuffs on the person for a reasonable amount of time to complete their enforcement action.

For example:

An officer stops a pedestrian for jaywalking and is going to issue a ticket. During the stop, the person continues to reach in their pockets, is evasive in answering questions, has documented gang tattoos or clothing. The officer could conduct a terry-frisk or pat-down (not a search) because there are observable and articulable facts (reasonable suspicion) that lead a reasonable officer to believe the person stopped could be carrying a weapon. It is reasonable for the officer to cuff the person for the duration of the stop.

The officer must articulate why he conducted a pat-down and put the person in cuffs because actions like this are the exception based on the need for officer safety and enforcement rather than the de facto procedure for all police-citizen contacts.

To put it another way, officers can't do this to everyone they stop. Would it seem reasonable to have a little old lady, concealed carrier, sit on the curb in cuffs while the officer wrote her a ticket for officer safety? Of course not.

police car

#2 It Infringes on Your Fourth Amendment Rights

The Fourth Amendment protects the individual from unreasonable governmental search and seizure. As mentioned above, an officer can only subject you to a higher level of restraint and control (seizure) if they articulate a need to do so.

However, duty to inform law compels you to provide a level of consent that otherwise you would not be subject to, under penalty of law.

For example:

Police stop you for a traffic infraction and are carrying a firearm legally. You have passed all the state-mandated requirements. Nothing is indicating you pose a threat to the officer. Following the law, you advise the officer you have your firearm.

Now the officer has the authority to seize your property from you during the duration of the stop. What if that property (your handgun) is inside a purse, bag, or glove box. The officer won't ask you to hand the gun over. Instead, he will ask for you to give consent for him to retrieve it.

No matter what answer you give, the officer already has the legal right to retrieve the gun. Consent is just an easier way of getting it. But if you say no, they can still temporarily seize the gun.

The officer will remove you from the car while retrieving the gun (at least an officer practicing sound officer safety tactics would proceed like this.)

The officer can't go searching the vehicle for the gun. However, if while retrieving the gun, the officer sees contraband in plain view or smells something – “plain smell,” you have a problem.

Perhaps you have a knife in your bag that is against some arbitrary city ordinance. The officer can now expand the scope of the detention based on the newly discovered crime.

Suppose you have a controlled substance or paraphernalia along with your firearm. Maybe it isn't even yours, but an addicted family member's. Many states have laws addressing possessing both a controlled substance and a gun at the same time. I think you can see where I am going with this.

I am not saying that all officers are using this as a pretext to search people's vehicles. The point is the law can and has been abused.

The constitution restrains the powers of the government the way it does to protect against potential abuses of power. There must be a very compelling cause and the necessity for the government to start poking deeper and deeper into your person and effects. Doing something legal like carrying a concealed firearm isn't a compelling reason, in my opinion.

#3 People May Unintentionally Violate the Law

Words like promptly, as soon as possible, or earliest opportunity can mean different things under different circumstances. If the law states the person “shall promptly” inform or notify the officer, determining if the person is in actual compliance is somewhat arbitrary.

And don't get me started on the various legal opinions and case law on if the duty to inform extends to passengers of the vehicle or not.

Putting it Into Practice:

I am not saying you should never tell an officer you are armed, or if asked, you should lie. The vast majority of law enforcement encounters I have heard of or been part of (both as an officer and citizen stopped in my private vehicle) are uneventful.

A case is made that informing the officer that you have a firearm is safer for the citizen.

This is debatable, but I understand the premise that notifying the officer you have a firearm and that you want to comply could reduce the chance of being mistaken as a threat if the gun is discovered later in the contact.

However, I don't think the solution to this problem is punitive laws laying out arbitrary parameters for how and when to notify an officer.

In Conclusion:

legal boundaries by state

If you live in or are visiting a state that has a duty to inform or duty to notify law, make sure you follow the law. If you happen to be in a state that doesn't require it, use your judgment in your decision.

If you aren't sure about your state's gun laws concerning things like the duty to notify/duty to inform, magazine limit restrictions, or reciprocity, I recommend our Legal Boundaries by State Book. It is the most comprehensive resource for gun laws and reciprocity information for every state. You can purchase a physical or digital copy. The digital copy comes free with the physical copy purchase and is regularly updated to reflect changes in the law.

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15 Responses to 3 Reasons Duty to Inform Law is Awful

  1. David June 11, 2021 at 8:12 pm #

    This reminds me of a traffic stop with the Minnesota State patrol years ago when I was carrying my Colt Defender.45, I was pulled over and I knew why I was speeding a little bit over 55. Actually about 63. And it was a new young female state patrolwoman. She asked me if I knew why I was being pulled over, and I said yes I think I was going a little over the limit. She then asked if there was anything dangerous in the car, and I simply said I have a permit to carry and I’m carrying a sidearm.
    I don’t know why she seemed alarmed, but she had me get out of the car hand her the firearm but first. She proceeded to cuff me while I was standing there, and asked me to sit in the backseat of her car. So I did.
    She emptied the firearm looked up the serial number. And called it in. After all that and verifying I was fine, and no problems there. She simply forgot about the speeding ticket. Lmao So I got my fire back unloaded and she handed me the ammunition and said have a good day ☺️

  2. William Garrett June 12, 2021 at 8:06 am #

    #4 Police officers are taught to control the conversation and some become VERY AGGRESSIVE when they are not allowed to begin and control the conversation. Interrupting people as they are speaking is an escalation of force and the last thing anyone carrying a weapon should do to another person carrying a weapon is escalate.

  3. Steven June 16, 2021 at 6:50 am #

    Just don’t get stopped by a officer who you bullied in high school carrying or not officers are human too☮️😜

  4. Pedro Luis Vazquez June 16, 2021 at 8:29 pm #

    To have the courtesy to informing the officers that you are carrying a weapon will avoid trouble possibly put at ease and more cooperate with other issues.

  5. GomeznSA June 16, 2021 at 9:26 pm #

    I’ve been stopped four times and three of them I was a serving LEO – and of course I was armed. I never said anything and the issue never came up. The last time was post retirement so wasn’t carrying and again the issue never came up.

    Here’s the real issue – Law Abiding Citizens are not a threat to officer safety and will comply with all reasonable laws and instructions given by the LEO. Does anyone really think that joe dirt bag will voluntarily comply in the slightest? ‘Yes Officer Friendly, I am illegally carrying a gun and since the law requires me to inform you I am doing so;

  6. william hopkins June 17, 2021 at 1:09 am #

    . . . I think the smartest approach is not to alarm the LEO. . .When he isn’t looking at you, you should casually retrieve your weapon and point it directly at the officer so that when he notices it he can readily see down the barrel, and realize there is no round in the chamber. . .You can further put the LEO at ease by sticking your gun slightly out of the window toward him so he can get a even better look at the chamber being empty and completely harmless, therefore putting his mind at ease. . .You may wish to be cordial at all times by saying things like “I got a little sumpin sumpin fer ya’ !” . .I’m quite sure that would help to set the tone, and most likely result in the LEO not writing you a ticket. . .You just have to think these things through before a innocent mistake is made on your part. . . I am a non-attorney spokesperson, and your results may vary !

  7. manny rich June 17, 2021 at 4:56 am #

    In the course of mylife I have been stopped several times for various traffic volations. I have no idea of requirements in thus regard. I always state I have x weapon ub my bg or there is y weapon on my person. I asl, doyou want to see my permit?” They always did, not the weapon.

    I then say where the wea;on os, and here he permit is.
    There has nwver been a negative response. Maybe because its in New York State.

  8. Steve Gibbs June 17, 2021 at 5:18 am #

    No one likes surprise parties. If I was told you had the item and where it was, I was a happy camper if you had the permit (required in Indiana) I can’t imagine the ridiculousness of unloading nd reloading a magazine on a busy highway. Every minute the possibility some idiot will veer off the highway and plow into you. On the other hand if I saw it without being informed it was a bad day for all involved.

  9. Karriem A Ali June 17, 2021 at 6:57 am #

    Thank you , this information was very informative it gave me the information needed when I’m carrying a concealed weapon and what to do

  10. LEON A DUNGEY June 17, 2021 at 10:09 am #

    Hey everyone, I am a 71 year old African American Vietnam Combat veteran who has been stopped or had some type of contact with law enforcement at least 5 times in the past 20+ years. I have always informed the Officer that I was legally carrying a firearm and never once have I had a negative response. In fact at least 3 of those times I was told “good for you for exercising your 2nd amendment rights as a citizen” Never had my firearm removed from my person.

  11. Greg Jones June 17, 2021 at 5:34 pm #

    When stopped, I say to the officer “As a courtesy, from one professional to another, I have a valid CCW permit, and I am in fact carrying a weapon on my person.” They’ve always seemed to appreciate the heads up, and we went forward with our business. I just want to make the officer feel at ease (as much as they possibly can), like having both hands in wide open plain view when they approach. Again, I seem to generally get a good response, in kind. Plus, it helps a LOT when you have a Purple Heart tag on your truck, too. A LOT of cops are vets, and it’s got me out of a few tix here and there.

    Be safe out there, people..

  12. frank July 4, 2021 at 7:35 am #

    I have a question. I have my pa carry permit and planning a trip to Louisiana what do I need to do traveling thru other states ? Thanks

    • Keith December 27, 2021 at 2:29 pm #

      Frank, my experience is to contact the department of public safety or the head law enforcement official in advance for each state you intend to enter. Laws change faster than printed guides and even printed guides have been wrong in my experience. I have even been told that although my concealed permit was recognized by a particular state I might be at the mercy of an officer if my firearm was discovered or volunteered. Good luck.

  13. Torn July 7, 2021 at 3:49 pm #

    Been stopped twice since 2007, both times I informed the officer i was legally carrying. In fact both times they thanked me and said you have a nice day. In my state they already know from your license plate that that vehicle is associated with a concealed permit holder.

  14. Cary B September 13, 2021 at 3:14 pm #

    I have ben stopped several times here in Ohio, and currently we are required to inform. I let them know I am carrying, where the weapon is located, and I already have my license, insurance card and CHL permit out of the wallet for them so I don’t have to reach. In this state the license plate flags you as a permit holder, so they already know IF you are driving your own vehicle. I own a Euro repair shop so I am often driving a customer’s car, and many of them are not license holders so the officer would not know. I keep my hands on the wheel unless otherwise instructed, and am courteous. I have had zero instances of an officer securing my weapon, most of the time they just instruct you to not touch it—a couple have jokingly said “You don’t touch yours and I won’t need to touch mine”. Out of 16 times being pulled over since obtaining my permit in the late 2000’s, I have been given 2 citations. One was in a school zone, which I had a slight issue with since it was summertime and the lights were not flashing. And the other one I simply wasn’t paying attention to the speed zone change and definitely deserved that one. Most of the time they run the licenses and come back to the car and tell you to have a nice day/evening. All of us are armed here at my shop, and some of us have had this experience: Sometimes after pulling a late shift on our own vehicles on a weekend, we are driving home and we pass a squad car going the opposite direction. They pull a U and come up on our flank, run our license plate and then turn around without pulling us over. We are not usually speeding this late at night, traffic is almost non-existent and we are on regular streets headed to the interstate through our small towns. I figure they are out at these hours looking for impaired drivers.
    We were sitting around the other day discussing our range days, and how we have our vehicles PACKED with firearms and thousands of rounds of ammo on those days..

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