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Minnesota changes its driver’s manual after Philando Castile’s mother pushes for updates

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The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced on Monday updates to the state driver’s manual that include guidance for drivers legally carrying firearms.

The announcement landed on the four-year anniversary of the fatal shooting of Philando Castile. In 2016, the 32-year-old was pulled over for a busted tail light in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. As Castile tried to tell an officer he had a gun on his person — a gun he had a permit to carry — he was shot seven times while his girlfriend and 4-year-old daughter were in the car.

The updates came after Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, continuously advocated for changes to the driver’s manual “to help provide consistency in traffic stops, especially when there is a firearm in the vehicle,” according to a news release from DPS.

“It’s been four years now and it seems like yesterday. We’re talking about 1,461 days that I have not seen my son, have not touched my son, have not kissed my son,” Valerie Castile said at the news conference.

“It brings delight that the Department of Public Safety has reupdated the driver’s manual because this little tidbit is very, very important. That bit of information can save lots of lives because you don’t know what you’re going to get when the police walk up to your car.”

Castile joined Minnesota DPS officials to announce the updates. Her recommendation was one of 28 announced by the working group on police-involved deadly force encounters, according to DPS.

The new changes

While the driver’s manual previously included guidance for motorists stopped by law enforcement, effective Monday, the changes cover new language explaining what drivers carrying firearms should and shouldn’t do during a traffic stop.

New guidance for motorists carrying firearms include keeping their hands on the steering wheel as the officer approaches, letting the officer know they have a firearm and telling the officer the location of the firearms. Drivers should not reach around inside the vehicle, get out of the vehicle unexpectedly or approach the officer.

The new updates also give drivers carrying firearms information on what to expect from law enforcement during a stop. Generally officers will greet the driver, ask for their driver’s license and proof of insurance, and check the validity of the driver’s license.

“Our message to drivers and law enforcement really is we want to make sure that traffic safety doesn’t lead to a personal tragedy,” DPS Commissioner John Harrington and former St. Paul police officer said at the news conference.

“That traffic safety is done in the interest of public safety. We see this as guidance to law enforcement so that there is consistency across the state of Minnesota. We want everyone involved in a traffic stop to walk away safely.”

The new guidelines can be found on page 40 of the Minnesota Driver’s Manual.

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