Accidental Exposure Of A Concealed Firearm: MCRGO Frequently Asked Question
Q: What is the recommended course of action in case of an accidental exposure of a concealed firearm in a public place?
A: If you inadvertently expose your weapon and it is seen by others, my recommendation is that you assume that you will be the subject of calls to 911. Many members of the public will assume that you are a law enforcement officer, or will be familiar with Concealed Pistol Licenses and not make an issue out of seeing a gun. However, there are members of the public who will assume the worst and call in “Man (or woman) with a gun!” Such a call can place you in a potentially dangerous, and certainly inconvenient position. Responding officers may approach you as a threat. So, assuming that you are properly licensed and the pistol is registered properly, and that you are in a place where you are authorized to be (not in a so-called “Pistol Free Zone” or trespassing on private property, etc.), I recommend that if someone appears to be concerned and may have called in to 911, that you act as a responsible citizen and call in yourself to clear up any misunderstandings.
I have been on police ride-alongs and seen that officers respond very quickly to gun calls over the radio. Also, I have had clients who were on the wrong side of “dispatcher momentum” and found themselves in stressful situations with police officers pointing weapons at them and shouting orders. I feel that we should try to avoid an “us versus them” mentality when dealing with the police and try to understand that their jobs are stressful, and therefore we should make reasonable attempts to provide dispatchers with correct information.
While open carry is legal in Michigan and police agencies have been doing a better job of training their officers in how to respond to law-abiding armed citizens, in my opinion it is only common sense to try to defuse a potentially dangerous and stressful situation by calling the incident in yourself and cooperating with responding officers, who may ask to see your CPL and your Driver’s License or State ID card.
Of course, I also recommend making wise decisions about carry weapons, holsters, and clothing so that concealed pistols remain concealed. The traditional reason for requiring licensing of concealed pistols is because they give the bearer the element of surprise in case the need arises for a defensive gun use. A “concealed” pistol that is actually visible, whether directly or through clothing, gives up that element of surprise.
You may choose to simply ignore the situation and perhaps no one will call it in to 911. If that happens, be prepared to follow all lawful commands of the responding officers. However, if you do not know the non-emergency number of the local law enforcement agency, or it is after hours, and you call 911. Be sure to immediately tell the dispatcher that your call is not an emergency but that you want to clear up any confusion. In my opinion, this is the responsible thing to do.
Steve is an attorney in private practice in East Lansing, www.StevenWDulan.com, and serves as an adjunct professor teaching firearms law at The Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, as well as an instructor of the legal portion of CPL classes around the state. He is a current member of the Board of Directors of MCRGO and a member of the Board of Trustees of the MCRGO Foundation and the MCRGO Foundation Firearms Civil Defense Fund.
The Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners is a non-profit, non-partisan organization. Formed from just eight people in 1996, we now have thousands of members and numerous affiliated clubs across the state. We’re growing larger and more effective every day.
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