Revisions to the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act of 2004 (LEOSA) recently signed by President Obama have expanded which active and off-duty officers are eligible to carry a concealed firearm in all 50 states, an attorney with the National Rifle Association tells POLICE Magazine.
The amendments, which were initially introduced in mid-2009, also set up more clarified guidelines about the documentation needed by retired officers and protect officers' rights to carry hollow-point ammunition — even when traveling in New Jersey.
When first passed, LEOSA didn't create a mechanism that would allow retired officers to exercise their right to carry concealed.
Amendments signed by Obama on Oct. 12 come closer to this goal and are generally good news for officers, said Christopher Conte, legislative counsel with the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action.
The law provides separate sections, offering guidance for active and retired officers that requires the later to "qualify" as the former to carry a concealed firearm in another state.
Most notably, the amendments expand the law's definition of active officers who can qualify, giving the right to more federal agents. Now, Amtrak Police, Federal Reserve officers, executive branch officers — such as all agents under the Department of Justice, U.S. Secret Service, and Park Police — and agents under the Department of Defense are eligible.
Also, officers can't lose their carry right if they've been reprimanded; only more serious misconduct could imperil it.
The active-duty section has also been reworked to protect hollow-point ammunition, but not submachine guns, silencers or a "destructive device" such as a hand grenade, Conte said. Guns or ammunition needing a tax stamp as required by the National Firearms Act wouldn't be protected.
Revisions also reduce the amount of time that an officer has to serve as an officer from 15 years to 10 years to qualify for LEOSA carry rights, bringing the federal requirement in line with states such as California with 10-year qualification already established.
And lastly, the changes create a procedure for retired officers to meet the requirements necessary for LEOSA carry. Retired officers need a special photo ID from the agency that employed them and requalification card. The card can be issued by the state similarly to a driver's license or by a certified firearms instructor (such as a range officer) who is "qualified to conduct firearms qualification tests for active duty officers," Conte said.
Currently, only Virginia accepts certification via the NRA's LEAD (Law Enforcement Assistance Division) program.
The law doesn't mandate states to set up a credential-issuing program.
"It certainly clears up portions of it," Conte said about the LEOSA revisions. "If you are in a hostile state, I don't know if it's going to make it any easier. You can always go down to your county sheriff."
The final bill signed by Obama originated with Sen. Patrick Leahy's (D-Vt.) S. 1132, but was substantially modified since its introduction.
"The dedicated public servants who are trained to uphold the law and keep the peace deserve our support, not just in their professional lives, but also when they are off-duty or retire," Leahy said in a statement on his website.
Officers with questions about laws in their specific states should contact NRA Legal at ILAlegal@nrahq.org.