License, Registration and Insurance

©7-2016 Matt Fitzgibbons,

squad-carAs a musician, for years I’ve been accustomed to being that one, crappy car coming down the road at 2:00 a.m. after a gig or recording session and the blue lights go off behind me. I ask myself, “What did I do?” Inevitably, the heart starts racing and in my mind, I run through the last few minutes to find the reason I am being pulled over. Sometimes I know, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes it’s justified, sometimes I feel it’s not. But I don’t have all of the facts. What I do know is that my own Utopian view of the world would include police officers because we need them. I know history. I know reality and I’ve encountered my share of criminals and police are needed to counter them.

As usual, I choose to exercise my Civil Rights with a concealed firearm on my person. I understand that nature and man put situations in our paths where we suddenly find ourselves prey. This has always been the case and will always be no matter how much we wish it weren’t so and it usually happens when we least expect it.  As a man of reason, I am not going to put my life, and those I love, in the hands of hope, against all statistics. I am prepared. Fortunately, I live in a time and place when the right to defend oneself with a firearm is the law.

bodyworn-policeWhen the police officer comes to my window, alone or accompanied by perhaps a nervous rookie, I roll down my window beforehand, leave my hands on the wheel, in plain view, greet him or her politely, and listen. I know the law. I know my rights. If I am arrested, I will have an attorney, be given due process and will have my time in court. Encounters with the police don’t instinctively make me angry. If I am requested to provide my license, insurance and registration, I inform them that I am legally carrying a licensed firearm even if I am not required to. I simply let them know and I keep my hands in plain view, on the wheel… far away from my weapon. My license and carry permit are in a connected, removable part of my wallet, but I do not take it out. I reach for nothing. I don’t complain, whine or accuse them of anything. And I do not use the word “gun”. My interaction is courteous, polite, respectful and sensitive to the fact that they have reason to be on edge and may have facts that I do not… even if the cop is being rude. In the vast majority of cases, they simply want to do their job and go home, just like I do. They invariably appreciate my willingness to cooperate, sometimes asking me to exit the vehicle, sometimes simply asking me to provide my information through the window. Whatever the case, I have generally diffused any tension with my respect and willingness to cooperate. It is not because of the color of my skin, the length of my hair or any other visible reason. It is simply because I don’t have an attitude and am not aggressive.

Individuals who demonstrate anger in encounters with the police are playing a sort of negative lottery. The odds are stacked against them. Chances are they will lose right then and there.

arrestThose who act aggressively, especially when it comes to police encounters, are asking for trouble. Claims of discrimination for   simple police encounters demonstrate ignorance of the law. Are Black Americans more likely to have police encounters? Yes, which is all the more reason to act with civility and courtesy to help diffuse possible tension. If anyone has a gripe with government, they have the right to change it peacefully through any number of legal tools at their disposal. Voting out the political party that has dominated a troubled community for decades would be a good start. After all, the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. Encounters with the police are no exception.

-Matt Fitzgibbons,
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