On July 22, 2004, President George W. Bush signed H.R. 218, the “Law Enforcement Officers’ Safety Act,” into law. The Act, now Public Law 108-277, went into effect immediately.
This new Federal law exempts qualified active and retired law enforcement officers from local and State prohibitions on the carrying of concealed firearms while off-duty across state lines.
A qualified active or retired law enforcement officer who is carrying the proper identification may carry a concealed firearm across state lines.
However, private citizens are allowed to prohibit the possession of a concealed firearm on their own property. A State can restrict the possession of a concealed weapon on its property (i.e. park, school, building, etc.).
A “qualified active law enforcement officer” is defined as an employee of a governmental agency who:
A “qualified retired law enforcement officer” is an individual who:
1. retired in good standing from service with a public agency as a law enforcement officer for reasons other than mental instability;
2. before retirement was authorized by law to engage in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of, or the incarceration of any person for, any violation of law, and had statutory powers of arrest;
3. before retirement was regularly employed as a law enforcement officer for a total of 15 years or more or completed any applicable probationary period of such service, and then retired early due to a service-connected disability;
4. has a non-forfeitable right to benefits under the retirement plan of the agency;
5. during the past 12 months has met, at his/her own expense, the State of residency’s standards for training and qualification for active law enforcement officers to carry firearms;
6. is not under the influence of alcohol or another intoxicating or hallucinatory drug or substance; and
7. is not prohibited by Federal law from possessing a firearm.
How do I qualify to carry under the provisions of this bill?
If you are a qualified retired law enforcement officer must carry on your person a photo ID issued by the agency from which you retired from service as a law enforcement officer that indicates that you have been tested or otherwise found by the agency to meet the standards established by the agency for training and qualification for active law enforcement to carry a firearm of the same type as the concealed firearm.
A qualified retired law enforcement officer must carry a photo ID issued by the agency from which you retired from service as a law enforcement officer and a certification issued by the State in which you reside that indicates that you have been tested or otherwise found by the State to meet the standards established by the State for training and qualification for active law enforcement officers to carry a firearm of the same type as the concealed firearm within the past 12 months.
I am a retired officer living in Florida. I was an active officer with the Chicago Police Department. How and where do I get my photo id and certificate to carry?
The photo ID is issued by the agency from which you retired from service as a law enforcement officer.
The certification is issued by the State in which you reside and indicates that you have been tested or otherwise found by the State to meet the standards established by the State for training and qualification for the State’s own active law enforcement to carry a firearm of the same type as the concealed firearm.
Am I allowed to carry a firearm on an airplane?
No. As an off-duty officer, you are not able to fly with a concealed weapon according to the current Federal aviation regulations. The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act does not affect federal laws, such as those enforced by TSA. Federal law does allow officers (and regular citizens) to bring their firearms with them in their checked luggage. (They do have to declare the firearms to airline personnel.)
Will current state laws still restrict or continue to prohibit officers from carrying firearms legally within a particular state?
The new Federal law exempts qualified off-duty police officers from the application of state law. For example, a qualified off-duty officer is allowed to carry a concealed weapon in a public area but must follow the regulations imposed at federal buildings, schools, airports, etc.
Does this mean all states have to change their carry laws to reflect the new federal law?
State laws are not required to change. This is a new Federal law that exempts qualified active and retired law enforcement officers from local and State prohibitions on the carrying of concealed firearms.
As a security guard with a homeowner’s association, am I adversely affected by H.R. 218?
Private employers are still allowed to set their own standards and qualifications for carrying a firearm on duty.
As an officer with NYPD, I wasn’t allowed to carry between jurisdictions while off-duty. Is this still the case?
A qualified officer should be able to carry a concealed firearm while off-duty as long as you are in compliance with the requirements of the Federal statutes.
Will an officer be able to carry in a state like New York or D.C. which have strict licensing requirements?
Yes. However, this law shall not be construed to supersede or limit the laws of any State that permits private persons or entities to prohibit or restrict the possession of concealed firearms on their property or prohibit or restrict the possession of firearms on any State or local government property, installation, building, base, or park.
My agency has a policy that does not allow me to carry a firearm while off-duty? Am I still legally allowed to do so? Or must I follow their requirement?
Unless you’re trying to get fired, it’s probably best if you follow your department’s policies.
My former agency and/or my State is not familiar with the new law and they have no procedure in place to qualify me and issue me the required document stating that I have met the active duty law enforcement standards for qualification with the firearm I intend to carry. What should I do?
The law has only been in place for a very short time, and many States and/or agencies may not have fully acquainted themselves with its effects, nor considered how they can or will qualify retired officers. NAPO recommends that retired members first check with their former agencies, if they live close enough to them to make it practicable, to see what options might be available. The next recommended step would be to contact the State Attorney General, the State Police, or whatever State agency has the authority over law enforcement officer standards and training to learn the latest information on how the States are going to qualify retired officers. If you continue to met resistance from your agency and/or State in receiving the required documents, consult a lawyer to determine what are you next possible actions toward being able to carry under H.R. 218.
Senator Kyl Sponsored Bill to Improve H.R. 218
On July 29, 2005, Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) introduced the “Law-Enforcement Officers’ Safety Act,” S. 1605, which will help ensure that H.R. 218 will be easily, fairly, and broadly implemented. Specifically, Section 8 of Senator Kyl’s legislation will reduce the number of years a law enforcement officer has to serve in order to qualify to carry, from 15 years down to 10 years. The bill also designates new forms of identification that can be used by qualified law enforcement officers whose agencies or states refuse to issue the certification required by H.R. 218.
NAPO worked hard to get H.R. 218 passed in 2004 and continues to be frustrated by the difficulty some of our members are experiencing in being able to get the right to carry by their states and agencies. NAPO supports the “Law-Enforcement Officers’ Safety Act” and Senator Kyl’s efforts to ensure that all qualified off-duty and retired officers across the nation will be able to carry firearms for the protection of themselves, their families and our nation’s communities, as it is stated in current law.
S. 1605, Sec. 8
SEC. 8. IMPROVEMENTS TO THE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS' SAFETY ACT.
Section 926C of title 18, United States Code, is amended--
(1) in subsection (c)--
(A) in paragraph (3)(A), by striking `was regularly employed as a law enforcement officer for an aggregate of 15 years or more' and inserting `served as a law enforcement officer for an aggregate of 10 years or more'; and
(B) by striking paragraphs (4) and (5), and designating paragraphs (6) and (7) as paragraphs (4) and (5), respectively; and
(2) in subsection (d)--
(A) in paragraph (1), by striking `or' after the semicolon;
(B) in paragraph (2)(B), by striking the period and inserting `; or'; and
(C) by adding at the end the following:
`(3) in those States or for those law-enforcement agencies that do not issue the identification or certification required by paragraph (1) or (2)--
`(A) an identification issued by the agency from which the individual retired from service as a law enforcement officer;
`(B) a photographic identification issued by an agency of the State in which the individual resides, such as a driver's license or a State identification card; and
`(C) a document issued by the State in which the individual resides that either certifies that the individual is authorized by the laws of that State to carry a concealed firearm, or, in those States that do not provide mandatory and objective standards for the issuance of such a license, certifies that the individual has received training in the safe handling of firearms or has completed a firearms safety or training course for security guards or investigators.'.