CCW and Law Enforcement: First Impressions Matter

What do you think when you see a man walking down the sidewalk in a nice suit, carrying a briefcase? You probably assume he's a businessperson, that he's professional and courteous, earns a good living, and presents no threat to you at all.

Now what do you think when you see a man walking down the sidewalk in baggy pants with the waist down to his ankles, face hidden in a hoodie? You probably assume he's a scumbag or dope dealer, that he's trying to conceal his identity, willing to do risky things to earn money or build reputation, and presents a possible threat if you cross his path.

You don't know either of these two men. It's possible that both are fine, upstanding citizens. It's also possible that they're both desperate and dangerous bad guys. You can't know for sure just by their appearance, but common sense is right more often than not, so your first impressions probably are not entirely wrong.

Part of being alert and prepared is observing people and listening to your gut.

For law enforcement, first impressions matter too. Most law enforcement professionals you encounter won't know you personally, and their impression of your appearance and behavior will affect how they treat you.

If you want to be seen as a good guy carrying a gun rather than a bad guy, consider these pointers:

Don't look like a dirtbag. Most people legally carrying a concealed weapon are dressed neatly and are reasonably well groomed. They tend not to wear baggy pants and baseball caps cocked at weird angles.

Don't carry a gun loose in your clothing. Those carrying legally almost always use a holster, whether it's mounted on a belt, worn inside the waistband, strapped to the ankle, or otherwise. Very few gangbangers and dope dealers even think about using a holster.

Don't be combative or evasive. Normal, law-abiding citizens may be a little nervous around police, but they're usually respectful, compliant, and straightforward. Bad guys, who know they're up to know good and are worried about being found out, are the ones who tend to start verbal confrontations or refuse to answer questions clearly.

Don't duck into the shadows when you see law enforcement. Again, while ordinary people may feel a slight twinge of unease around law enforcement, they don't feel the need to hide when they see a badge or cop car. This is a pretty clear sign that you're up to something illegal.

None of this is rocket science. If you have an encounter with law enforcement while you're legally armed, and you want to be treated like a law-abiding citizen, act like one.

To get a good perspective on what a cop looks for to distinguish between the good guys and bad guys, read "Dealing with citizens legally carrying a concealed weapon" at PoliceOne.com.

Most law enforcement professionals support legal concealed carry and they don't want to hassle you. So giving them a good first impression can help put them at ease and make your encounter go much more smoothly.