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Departments : Point of Law

Borderless Concealed Carry

What does the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) really mean for retired and off-duty officers who want to carry concealed across state lines?

November 01, 2004  |  by Devallis Rutledge - Also by this author

In most jurisdictions, peace officers are authorized by state or local law to carry concealed firearms, even when off duty. The reasons are obvious: Even off duty, you're normally expected to do more than just be a good witness to a robbery or a kidnapping that takes place right before your eyes; and should you bump into someone you arrested and sent to prison, you don't need to be at a disadvantage if he decides to get even.

But what happens when you leave your jurisdiction? Some officers reside beyond the city or county limits, or may travel outside the state to pursue an investigation or pick up a prisoner, or may be vacationing in another jurisdiction when a need arises to be armed. What if local laws forbid you to carry a concealed weapon?

Congress recently considered these problems, in light of the national interest in having law enforcement officers everywhere armed and ready to defend against both individual criminals and organized terrorists. The result was passage of Public Law 108-277, also known as H.R. 218, also known as the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) of 2004. The measure, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush and became effective on July 22, 2004, enacted two new sections to Title 18 of the United States Code.

The first section, 926B, deals with the circumstances under which active-duty officers may carry concealed weapons; 926C applies to retired officers. Some of the provisions of both sections are identical, while others are different. Subject to certain limitations and requirements, these statutes override most state and local restrictions on the authority of officers to carry concealed weapons anywhere in the United States.

Common Limitations

Because Congress had to find some law-making authority in the Constitution to supplant local laws relating to firearms possession, it looked to the Commerce Clause (Article I, section 8), which gives the federal government the power to regulate foreign and interstate commerce. The first significant restriction on the national CCW law for officers, therefore, is that it does not apply to weapons that have not "been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce." So you might have difficulty carrying a concealed weapon that was manufactured in your state.

For example, if you are a Massachusetts officer carrying a Smith & Wesson, or a Connecticut officer with a Colt, or a Georgia officer carrying a Glock, you may want to acquire a different off-duty weapon to carry outside your local jurisdiction (though most, if not all, of these weapons will have moved in interstate commerce).To determine whether the new federal law applies to your weapon, the first step is to establish whether or not your particular weapon has moved in foreign or interstate commerce. Your dealer (personally owned weapons) or armorer (departmental issue) should be able to tell you, or you may verify the place of manufacture with the gunmaker.

Both sections also place restrictions on the kinds of weapons excluded from their coverage. These statutes do not apply to machine guns (as defined in section 5845 of the National Firearms Act) or silencers or destructive devices (as defined in 18 USC § 921).

Neither 926B nor 926C supercedes any state or local law that either (1) permits private property owners to restrict the possession of concealed firearms on their property or (2) prohibits or restricts the possession of firearms on any state or local government property, installation, building, base, or park.

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