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Do you have to tell the police if you have a firearm in the car?

You have a concealed carry license. Your criminal record is largely clean, you legally purchased your carry gun and you follow all of the related laws. You've been doing this for the last 10 years.

One day, on the way home from work, an officer pulls you over. He suspects that you may have been drinking or texting because you swerved over the center line. When he walks up to the window, do you have to tell him that you're carrying a gun?

State laws differ on this. In some, you have to tell the police at all times; in others, you have no duty to tell them at all. In most states, though, you simply have to tell the officer if he or she asks you if you have a gun. If not, you don't have to stay anything.

Illinois falls into this last category. If the officer just comes up to the window, chats about your driving mistakes and decides to let you go when he sees that you're not intoxicated, that could be the end of it. You don't have to say anything.

However, if the officer asks you if you're carrying a gun or if you have one in your vehicle, then you're obligated to inform him that you do. Illinois law specifically states that you have to:

  • Disclose that you're in possession of a firearm.
  • Show the officer your concealed carry license when asked.
  • Show the officer evidence that you're legally qualified to carry if you're not a resident and don't have an Illinois license.
  • Tell the officer exactly where the gun is located, whether you're carrying it or just have it somewhere in the car.

Another important thing to note is that anyone in the car has to follow these laws. Maybe you carpool to and from work. You have a passenger sitting next to you and two more in the back. If the officer asks, any of those passengers who are carrying firearms must also acknowledge it, show their paperwork and tell the officer the location of the gun.

It doesn't matter that you were driving, so you're technically the one who got pulled over. Even though they did not break the law or get stopped, passengers are still bound by these restrictions. Failing to follow them can result in a breach of this law and could warrant an arrest if it's discovered.

Illinois is certainly not alone. Only 14 states mandate that you reveal that you have a gun, even if you're not asked. Just two say you have no duty to inform officers. California, New York and Hawaii have special concealed carry laws. All the rest follow laws similar to those in Illinois, and it's crucial to know the obligations these laws create and what legal options you have if arrested.

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