What the LEOSA Reform Act might mean for active and retired officers

The LEOSA Reform Act would expand where current and retired officers can carry a concealed firearm


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In 2004, Congress passed the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (also known as LEOSA), which allows qualified active and retired officers to carry a concealed firearm in any jurisdiction in the United States—with certain exceptions and restrictions. Recently introduced legislation—the LEOSA Reform Act—would expand where current and retired officers can carry a concealed firearm, as well as reform the qualification standards for retired officers to ease superfluous burdens for anyone carrying in accordance with LEOSA. If passed, some of the hurdles put in place in states like New York, New Jersey and other places would come down. In this podcast segment, Jim and Doug discuss whether or not the LEOSA Reform Act will pass, and what it would mean for officers if it does.

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Learn more about LEOSA and off-duty carry or read a transcript of this episode of Policing Matters.

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Policing Matters Transcript

Doug Wyllie: In 2004, Congress passed what we now know as LEOSA or the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, which essentially allows qualified active and retired law enforcement officers to carry a concealed firearm in any state despite what those states’ rules and restrictions on concealed carry may be.

That looks good on paper, but that’s not how it really works in the real world. States like New York, New Jersey, Hawaii and other places have made it significantly more difficult than what that law should allow you to actually do. They have travel restrictions and all kinds of different barriers and hurdles in place that potentially could put officers, retired and active, in peril. So, a legislator, Don Bacon from Nebraska, in mid-February proposed a law called the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) Reform Act. Dozens and dozens of police organizations have lauded this effort because it includes some of the things that were left out of the original bill. He wrote that original bill with those things in it, and he’s trying to get them now reinserted by a separate vote.

The legislation was introduced in mid-February; we know full well and good what the tension is between the Republicans and the Democrats, particularly in relation to guns. In fact, that very same week that legislation was introduced, House Democrats introduced some further restrictions on gun possession. So given that atmosphere, what do you think the odds of this law actually being passed are?

Jim Dudley: Ah, that’s a tough one to say. There are two schools of thought right now. One is that a good guy with a gun is a force multiplier, and there’s no downside to having more good guys with guns out there. We see that in open carry and concealed carry states like Texas, Ohio and Arizona, so you have that sentiment. But then you have this moral panic created by the latest shooting, whichever that may be. We have a large group of Democrats who are actually going counter to this move. They are looking to be more restrictive of firearms, whether or not you are a police officer, active or retired. So, I’m hoping that cooler heads prevail, and they do see the benefit of this.

I am, myself, a LEOSA card-carrying member, as a retired member in good standing with the San Francisco Police Department. I go annually and qualify with a separate firing protocol to satisfy the federal requirement to be able to carry outside of state. There may be amendments made to give states the final say to say who can carry within their states, but I think it’s a good thing. I think that the laws that start to restrict the retired members in good-standing, well I’m not quite sure if we’ve had some sort of big incident where, ah, retired cops have gone on a rampage. I haven’t seen it.

Doug Wyllie: I’ve never read that.

Jim Dudley: So I don’t understand the implications, unless they think the retired officers’ skills are eroding, but when you have standards that they’ve got to comply with, I don’t understand that either.

Doug Wyllie: Right. I mean if you’re 90-plus years old and you know, you can’t hold your hand steady, and your vision has deteriorated to the point where even your glasses are not correcting your vision correct, I get that. I get it, completely. Because you don’t, you don’t have the skills and abilities to safely deal with, not just a firearm, but a firearm in a high-stress situation.

Jim Dudley: Right.

Doug Wyllie: Right? I will go a little step further here with LEOSA. It’s not really related to LEOSA, per se, but going to other states. You know, retired police officers would be really, really good candidates for people who would conceal carry in places that are more likely to come under threat. Right?

Jim Dudley: Yep. And I think one state just hired a bunch of ex-veterans – that’s sort of a double-negative – but veterans to come on and be, essentially, school safety personnel.

Doug Wyllie: Yeah, yeah. Force protection I think is what they would call it. There’s so many of these, um, crazy restrictions that you have in some of the more liberal states. And so, the question becomes, won’t those states continue to do this stonewalling thing? Like, would they find more different, more creative ways to place restrictions?

Jim Dudley: Well, I think when we talk about Baltimore, we talk about Maryland and we’ve seen how that attitude has backfired. When you say that you don’t want cops in schools with guns, well then, who do you call when someone else shows up with a gun? I hope it doesn’t take those incidents to get those people to move forward. I just want to read to you from my LEOSA card, and I’m sure it varies from state to state, but it’s a federal card, but it reminds the retired members that you have to have your ID, you have to have your CC approval from your local agency, and while LEOSA allows you to carry concealed, it does not exempt you from following state or local restrictions on where concealed firearms may be carried, i.e. bars, government buildings, private property, etc. Nor are you allowed to conduct law enforcement activities of a non-emergency nature. So that all makes sense. It will be interesting to see what the state objections are and which states object to it.

Doug Wyllie: Here’s my prediction on this. I don’t think it’s getting out of the House. I think it’s a wonderful gesture, and a wonderful idea, and if it does get out of the House then I don’t know how much of a chance it has in the Senate either. If it does pass both of the houses, then it obvious that President Trump, who is far more pro-police than his predecessor, then it’s clear he would sign it. But because of the highly contentious nature of today’s politics, especially in the lower chamber where, you know, it’s a food fight there every day, and everyone’s there to just make political points and grandstand in certain ways. I hope it passes. What do you think? Do you carry under LEOSA? Do you travel on vacation and bring your sidearm with you? Are you a retired officer and still carry, like Jim? Send us an email at policingmatters@policeone.com.

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