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January 08, 2007

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Driving With Guns

This past week, while driving from South Carolina to a gun show in Stamford, CT, legendary rifle builder Kenny Jarrett attempted to light a cigar, and during his momentary lapse in concentration, his SUV ran onto the rumble strip edging the interstate. No sooner did he get the wandering vehicle under control than there was a Delaware state trooper behind him, signaling him to pull over.

They did the license and registration dance, and Kenny explained that he problem was due to an $8 cigar, and then the trooper asked the magic question:

“Do you have any firearms in the vehicle?”

Kenny, who had under a dozen rifles cased in the back, allowed as how he did, and showed off his copious paperwork to the minion of the law, and everything was more or less copacetic until another trooper, a female one, pulled up. She demanded that Kenny and his wife lean against the SUV and patted them down for concealed weapons, or maybe Cuban cigars.

Kenny happened to look behind him at this point and saw that there were eight—count ‘em, eight—Delaware state police cars pulled over on the shoulder, hoping that they would get to shoot someone and be famous like the New York City police.

(Now at this point it’s appropriate to wonder how many cases of road rage, how many drunks, and out-of-control speeders went tooling by as all these troopers congregated to subdue a guy who tried to light a cigar. I’d also like to know what kind of radio call call went out. “All units respond, man with guns and cigar, come Code Two.”)

The upshot (as it was) was Kenny was given a $130 summons, and told that if he didn’t pay within 30 days it would be forwarded to the South Carolina DMV which would revoke his license.

I pointed out to Kenny that he was lucky. If he had been pulled over in New Jersey he would have been shot to death on the spot.

To end this rant on a positive note, let me dispense with some advice:
If you are driving through the northeastern states, obey all firearms-transportation laws (It won’t help; most cops don’t know what they are, but I’m supposed to say this), do nothing to attract attention to yourself, and have a lawyer with you at all times.

Also, do not attempt to light a cigar.


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Dave Petzal

Correction: The sentence should have read "...dispense some advice," "not dispense with..." which means something else entirely. I am so ashamed.


$130 Summons for what?

Charles  Benoit

Having a car tag from the South will alert a northern LEO of the possibility of gun running. That may have been the reason for eight patrol cars responding. Best to know the northern gun laws well in advance. Regards, Charles


Don't be such a jerk. Ride in a patrol car and allow yourself some insight.


If it would have been some 870's from Walmart he probably would have been alright. Sounds like the officer had to write him up for somthing after making an A*s out of himself/herself........

Dave Petzal

To Steve C: I assume your posting is meant for me, so:

According to the troopers I've hung around with, any state cop has considerable powers of discretion in how they handle any situation.

Also, any LEO with enough experience to be riding by him (her)self can tell in the first 10 seconds of a field interrogation just what they're dealing with. A guy with all his paperwork and some cased rifles is not the same as a guy with a trunk full of handguns. It's my observation that cops tend to go way overboard these days when it comes to guns.

An example from 30 years past: The late Bill Ward, who owned Griffin & Howe, was attending a gunsmith school in the West, and when he came home on vacation he put a dozen or so handguns in a cheap suitcase to work on over the holidays.

The suitcase broke in LaGuardia Airport , and there were guns all over the floor. The whole world turned to cops, and the head cop, after Bill had established who he was and what he was doing with all the hardware, told Bill that he could do 10 years in prison, but instead, he was going to let him go and Bill had better not do anything like that again.

If some like that happened oday, Bill would be doing 25 years, and how would that serve the public interest?

That's my insight.


What was the 130.00 ticket for? Going off the road. Sounds like the trooper was low on his ticket quota. HA HA


I find that most LEO's really don't have a good understanding of the law or citizen's rights. When ever I get the chance I will talk to a LEO concerning gun rights. Most think I don't have any or very few. As far as norther states as a southern. I just avoid them at all cost.

Chad Love

I started my post-college journalism career as a cops-and-courts reporter for the daily newspaper in the town in which I now reside (I've since gone on to full-time freelance poverty, but that's another story). This gave me an opportunity to get to know a lot of cops, both local, state and even a few feds. I can tell you with as high a degree of certainty as I can tap out on a keyboard that an individual cop's attitude toward gun transport is informed almost completely by personal experience, or lack thereof, rather than any official procedure.
Two personal and completely anecdotal experiences to back this claim: a few years ago I'm driving out of town for a quick afternoon dove hunt when I notice one helluva road block up ahead. State troopers are searching cars, digging in trunks, etc. Apparently a couple guys had just broken out of the county jail.
So here I am with two boxes of double AAs on the seat beside me and a cased shotgun leaning on the passenger seat. In addition I have a battered old 870 I use to shoot live flyers for my dog training lying uncased and in full view on the rear seat of my truck. I don't have my camo on, but it's on the seat next to me along with a game vest and my chessie is in the dog box.
It was pretty obvious I was hunting, but I was still nervous. I pull up, the trooper(whom I had never met)pokes his head in the passenger side, eyeballs my guns, gives the cab a once-over and asks if I'd seen anything out of the ordinary or if anyone had tried to get a ride from me. I replied that I hadn't and there hadn't and even if there were they were only getting as far as the WMA 'cause I was going dove hunting. He grinned, wished me luck and waved me on.
Not a week later I'm visiting my family in ye olde hometown of Norman, Okla. (a formerly idyllic little college town since transformed into the typical late-20th century dysfunctional suburban nightmare).
While I'm there I decide to get in a little dog training at one of my childhood fishing holes, a great old farm pond that had played a big part in keeping my adolescent arse in the woods and off skateboards and other assorted detritus of the suburban single-parent teen lifestyle.
This old pond had given me a lot of mallards, a lot of bass and lot of memories, but like most undeveloped land on the fringes of the suburban monster, it was doomed. It was to be the centerpiece of Norman's newest gated community and the skeletons of the 4,000 square-foot McMansions were already going up. No more duck hunts, no more bass fishing. It even had a damn sidewalk around it, presumably so the future residents wouldn't jostle their Ipods while powerwalking, that and I guess their kids would need a place to skateboard.
Anyway, I digress. The point I'm trying to make is the character of this town in a presumably redneck state like Oklahoma is pure suburban, divorced from any type of rural mythos.
So I'm standing there, on the freakin' sidewalk, getting ready to send my dog on a water blind, when one of Norman's finest pulls up. Now mind you, there's no one living here yet, there aren't even any houses completed. I'm all by my lonesome, not bothering a soul. I look, to my way of thinking, pretty damn benign.
He looks at my dog with a distrusting look and asks me to put it up. He then asks what I'm doing here. I bite my tongue (let's see, i've got a pile of bumpers at my feet, a whistle around my neck and a wet dog. What the hell do you think?) and try to explain that I'm just doing some dog training, I used to have permission to hunt and fish here, etc, etc,. I can tell there's just no common ground here. He's just not buying it. Then he looks in the bed of my truck and observes, ironically enough, a few empty hulls from the hunt the week before, the one the trooper who searched my truck wished me luck on.
Then comes the "papers please" routine with the license check, then the firearms question (the 870 was at home, hate to think what would have happened had I had it...) then the request to search my vehicle, you know, the one that really means "if you do mind, we've got a problem, a big one."
He tried like hell, he really did, but eventually, after the background check, the vehicle search, the demeaning suspicion-laced questions he finally had to concede that transporting an empty shotgun shell wasn't a crime, yet.
But his attitude and body language screamed that he fervently wished it were.
Plus, when he first pulled up he asked if my chessie was "some kind of poodle." I knew then I was in for a rough time.
My rambling point to all this is that, with all due respect, it's not endemic to northeastern states, or California or whatever other place most guys think of as liberal bastions. It can happen anywhere there is widespread disengagement of the general population from meaningful and realistic (i.e. non anthropomorphized) interaction with nature. And that, my friends, is pretty much everywhere these days.
Cops merely reflect the society they serve. Damn few people hunt or shoot these days, ergo damn few cops are going to be sympathetic in the latitude they wield when they pull someone over.


Hey Petzal! Re: Chad Love.

You need to get this guy a job with F&S. He writes good!!

JC Blauvelt

Good thing that he was not driving thru NY City. Mayor Bloomberg would have had him hanged for smoking. Drawn and quartered too if he also had trans fats in the vehicle.


I'm just waiting for the state to start mandating its trooper's wear those nifty black uniforms with the red armbands like you see on so many History Channel shows. Heil!


I feel so lucky I get to hunt in South Dakota each year. Get to drive around with uncased loaded guns (not supposed to have one in the chamber though now) hunt, and feel sort of like a cowboy (a gasoline cowboy). And then I go through withdrawal when I have to leave. But the good thing is I can't wait to go back and do it all over again.

Ralph the Rifleman

Humm..DP, thanks for another PI** me off cop story it really breaks the monotony of daily life.


I agree with Chad Love. It depends on the LEO that draws your number that day and his or her previous experiences on the highway.
I live in Eastern Washington. Washington is a very liberal state, but only because of King County (Seattle), however, Eastern Washington is quite conservative. I can remember at least a couple times that I have been pulled over for speeding in which I am certain I wasn't given a ticket just because I disclosed to the officer that I had a valid concealed pistol license and was carrying my pistol. In fact, I haven't been given a speeding ticket since I obtained my CPL.
However, a few years ago I was pulled over for speeding on Thanksgiving Day. My family has a tradition of going trap/target shooting on Thanksgiving Day, so I had a two shotguns in cases in the back of my truck with the canopy locked, plus a locked handgun case on the back seat of my truck. I wasn't carrying my concealed pistol that day, but did have my CPL on me. I saw the officer pull around behind me, but saw no lights and heard no siren, so I proceeded up the road. A minute or so later, the blue started to flash, I pulled over right away. As the trooper approached my vehicle, he looked in the back of the truck and saw the shotgun cases. His hand went to his side and he unsnapped the retention strap on his pistol. As he reached my window, I rolled it down. He said in a rather loud voice, "Why didn't you pull over?" To which I responded, "I pulled over as soon as I saw your lights." He then said, "What are you hiding, open your door," at which point he reached for my door handle and pulled to open it, as it was locked, I had to reach down to unlock it. He pulled the door open forcefully, looking in the door pocket and under my seat, all the time with his hand on his Glock. He then stepped back and forcefully asked for my license, registration, and proof of insurance. I provided all three, as well as my CPL. He asked right away, again in an elevated volume, "Do you have any fire arms in the vehicle?" all the while his hand on his gun. I responded with yes and where they were. He then asked if I had been drinking. I had not. He then stepped away and I could see him calm slightly. He then reapproached me and appologized for scaring me and my passenger. He then proceded to tell me that I was his first traffic stop since the one the night before in which the driver he stopped was drunk and had killed himself as the officer approached the window. It turns out the driver had several warrants for his arrest. The officer appologized again, returned my documents without even calling them in to dispatch, and told me to have a safe day.
Would this officer have reacted the same way had he not been part of the suicide the night before, probably not. You never do know what an officer has been through, but their experiences are no excuse for treating law abiding citizens like criminals. What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty?


You are under no obligation to consent to a search. If asked to get out of the vehicle, do so politely and lock the vehicle behind you.

Plain sight rules apply, but cased weapons are not in plain sight, nor do they imply a crime.

I must ask, as have others, what the summons was for. Is there more to the story, perhaps?

Boar Slayer

Hey there are alot of good cops. No one in my family hunts so the people who take me are my three friends who happen to work in the LA sheriffs department. If it wasn't fot their poitive influence i wouldn't have the opprotunity to hunt. As a result of the example they have set i want to be LAPD when i graduate high school in a couple years. I am not coming to the defence of the bad cop who fined your friend but their are many good cops. I think that for the most part the cops are just trying to be cautious because they realize that every car they pull over could be their last. Just give the cops a little slack odds are they probablly know of someone who died while doing a routine traffic stop.

A. S. Moeggs

What the heck, no post from Demko? What happened to him Dave? No snide comments from me on this story.


It's sad the police feel they need to hassle everyone over what seems to be a case of common sense. Cops seem to have lost the ability to determine the difference between a normal traffic stop and one fraught with danger. In defense of the cops, I understand the trepedation of approaching a car and seeing guns. It would be scary. On the other had, a cooperative driver, a plausible explanation and the cop should allow the individual to be on their way. Hopefully this is an illustration of something that happens rarely and not a problem that will continue to grow.

JC Blauvelt

No one ever posts rants when they are treated fairly by the avarage good police officer. You only hear about the bad ones.


This is the problem with bad LEO's or those that are just having a bad day. Rarely do we hear of the friendly police officer that let someone go with a warning and a good luck. This does not mean they aren't there. They just are not news worthy. I have dealt with LEO's a few times. All but one went as pleasant as something like that can go.
Once, years ago on the way home from a girl friend's house at 3:00 am I was pulled over for crossing the center line. I was falling asleep at the wheel (very stupid on my part). The officer came to the window asked for license and registration. I had the registration in the glove box but left my wallet at my girlfriend's house. He spoke with me for a few seconds. I told him why I crossed the center line. He checked my registration through dispatch and let me go. I did not know this police officer. I was driving a supped up camaro. How many officers would have done the same thing? But because nothing really happened I never really tell anybody about it. If he had pulled me out of the car and beat the crap out of me, the world would have known.


What’s a major concern in these very spooky, described affairs is private citizens feeling fat, dumb, and happy suddenly yanked into situations where if they aren’t extremely smart they aren’t going to win, no matter how right they are.

I don’t have an explanation for all these twitchy LEO’s, but LEO’s have become extremely so. I look at many LEO’s wondering just what their state-of-mind is, and what is it going to mean to me and the people around me. I would find small comfort seeing my law suit progress as I’m going into my third reconstructive surgery.

……Not good times


Let's see here....a man and his wife, proper documents at the check-point, no aggressive behavior.....eight squad cars.....can you say "Gee, we were sitting around eating doughnuts and drinking coffee when one of our comrades finally found something for us to do."

What really blows me away is that apparently not one of the officers realized who he was nor asked for his autograph.

Dan Mc

Why don't you whiners crack a newspaper and read one of the stories about officers being shot in the line of duty. If you don't have to worry first and foremost about someone shooting you at your job, then you have no right to complain about a cop's vigilance when it comes to guns on the street. I'd venture to say that none of you police-bashing posters would have the b*lls of sense of service to others to work as a police officer.

Dan Mc

should have said b*lls or sense of service...

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