With more than 1.6 million concealed carry firearms licenses in the state of Florida, more than any other state, it is important that citizens and our law enforcement officers all get correct information.

An Aug. 7 article in The Sun, “Drivers should communicate, be respectful during traffic stops,” failed to report some very important information that citizens and officers should all know. First, a concealed weapons license is not required to lawfully carry a firearm in your car. In fact, it requires no license at all to lawfully carry a firearm in your car.

Florida state law gives all citizens the ability to legally carry a handgun in their car as long as it meets certain requirements. Those are it must be concealed and either “securely encased” or “not readily accessible.” It’s not very hard to follow those requirements. And by law if it is a long gun (meaning rifle or shotgun), it can be carried anywhere in the vehicle as long as it is for lawful purpose (meaning self-protection or anything else).

The laws have been on the books for a long time, and people have been carrying firearms in their vehicles for a long time. It is only with the advent of cell-phone cameras and videos that it has come to the attention of the general public how this can cause problems at times with law enforcement officers.

I am a 35-year-plus veteran law enforcement officer. I teach full time at the police academy in Gainesville, and have taught thousands of police officers, but a problem we have is that the firearms-carry laws are not in the basic law enforcement officer’s curriculum anywhere.

They are not required to get training on this law. But with the recent events, our local agencies have seen fit to add it to their in service training. This is a positive step, but the public also can do their part. I am trying to get these laws added to the basic law enforcement officers training in the academy but that is still in the works.

Police officers have no legal right to disarm or take a lawfully carrying citizens’ firearm from them during a traffic stop. One problem is that not all police officers know this, and to refuse an officer’s directions on the side of the road to relinquish your firearm is not a good idea. It is better to follow the officer’s directions, and then take up the issue with the officer’s supervisor or department later if a citizen feels the need.

The less we handle firearms on the side of the road, the better off we all are. Officers are not trained in how to unload every kind of firearm they may encounter, so leaving it where it is when stopped is probably the best place for it to be. It is a fact that concealed weapons license holders are six times less likely to commit a serious crime than the police officers I have trained. That’s why they have gone through the fingerprinting, background checks and such to get a license to carry a concealed firearm.

In Florida, while concealed weapons license holders do not have to inform an officer they are carrying, they do have to tell the officer if the officer asks directly if they have a firearm or weapon on them.

If citizens simply follow the directions of the officer, and the officer simply leaves the firearm wherever the citizen has it, no one will have any problems. Respect goes both ways.

— Christopher Wagoner lives in Gainesville.





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