The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act
The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (“LEOSA”), codified in federal statutes 18 U.S.C. §§ 926B and 926C in 2004, gives certain qualified law enforcement officers a convenient alternative to carry a concealed firearm off-duty with a few limited exceptions.
Carrying concealed under LEOSA gives officers a number of benefits over the traditional method of applying through a state’s concealed carry licensure/permitting process. Most states have a list of requirements that must be met in order to carry concealed – these range from the easy-to-meet, such as providing your name and address, to the particularly onerous, like having to prove a “justifiable need” for a license.
Qualified current and retired officers can bypass these state requirements if they meet the conditions of sections 926B and 926C, not only making it easier for officers to carry concealed, but also giving them the right to carry in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and a number of other U.S. territories. LEOSA also preempts nearly all state and local law governing firearms with the exception of just two types of laws: (1) laws allowing private parties to prohibit the possession of concealed firearms on their property, and (2) laws prohibiting or restricting possession of firearms on state or local government property, installations, buildings, bases, or parks. Additionally, LEOSA does not preempt the federal Gun-Free School Zones Act.
In order to qualify under LEOSA, a person can be either a Qualified Law Enforcement Officer (QLEO) or a Qualified Retired Law Enforcement Officer (QRLEO). A QLEO is defined in § 926B as an employee of a governmental agency who is authorized to prevent, detect, investigate, or incarcerate any person for violations of the law. This includes not only local and state police officers, but also military police with arrest powers under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, as well as Amtrak police and Federal Reserve officers, among others. QLEOs must be authorized by their agency to carry a firearm and meet any standards the agency has established which require qualifying in the use of a firearm.
Section 926C defines a QRLEO as a person who separated in good standing from a public agency as a law enforcement officer, and was authorized to prevent, detect, investigate, or incarcerate any person for violating the law. Similar to QLEOs, a QRLEO may be a former military, Amtrak, Federal Reserve or other type of law enforcement officer. QRLEOs must have served for at least 10 years with one or more public agencies or must have been separated due to a service-connected disability (determined by the agency) after completing an applicable probationary period. QRLEOs also need to meet the firearms training qualifications for active law enforcement officers.
Officers may not carry concealed if they are under the influence of alcohol “or another intoxicating or hallucinatory drug or substance,” or if they are prohibited from receiving firearms under federal law. Further, active officers may not be the subject of any disciplinary action by their agency which could result in suspension or loss of police powers, and retired officers must not have been officially found to be unqualified for mental health reasons, or to have entered into an agreement with their former agency in which they acknowledged disqualification due to mental health reasons.
Qualifying active officers must carry photo ID issued by the governmental agency he or she works for, and which identifies them as a police or law enforcement officer. Qualified retired officers must carry photo ID issued from the agency they separated from, identifying them as a former police or law enforcement officer. The ID should show that the QRLEO has met the same firearms training standards required of active-duty officers employed by their former agency, within a year of the date the person is carrying the firearm. It must also show that they are qualified to carry a firearm of the same type as the concealed firearm they wish to carry.
Alternatively, they may have the ID above and a state certification indicating that the individual has met, not less than 1 year before the date the individual is carrying the concealed firearm: (1) the active duty standards for qualification in firearms training to carry a firearm of the same type as the concealed firearm; or (2) standards set by any law enforcement agency within the person’s state to carry a firearm of the same type as the concealed firearm.
LEOSA is a powerful law that applies uniformly across the country, and because it preempts most state law, individual states cannot opt-out. Further, provided that an officer is in good standing, if he or she qualifies under the law, the internal policies of a department or agency cannot prohibit him or her from carrying under LEOSA.
However, a word of warning: while LEOSA may make the possession of a concealed firearm legal, the use or display of the weapon may create the need for legal representation. Some officers in other states may not be up-to-speed on LEOSA and instead of a pleasant conversation, there may be cuffing and transport to the local station. There have also been instances of officers being frivolously denied a LEOSA ID card by their employer. U.S. Law Shield’s Law Enforcement Officer Program has experienced program attorneys available to assist nationwide, and Multi-state coverage is available. Don’t hesitate to contact us about representation if you have an incident involving your concealed carry of a firearm, whether under LEOSA or otherwise!