When the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act of 2004 (LEOSA) was signed into law by President Bush, it granted active and retired law enforcement officers the right to carry a concealed firearm in all 50 states provided they met certain requirements. Unfortunately, it did not create a mechanism that would allow retired officers to exercise this right.
Earlier this year, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) submitted S. 1132, a bill designed to clean up the LEOSA mess. Today, Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) introduced companion legislation-H.R. 3752-in the House.
These proposed laws would do the following:
- Clarify the status of Amtrak Police and other federal officers
- Grant LEOSA carry rights to current and retired law enforcement officers (with civilian arrest powers) who work or have worked for a branch of the United States Armed Forces.
- 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
- Create a procedure for retired officers to meet the requirements necessary for LEOSA carry
Forbes said the primary purpose of the new legislation is to provide retired officers with a way to exercise their LEOSA rights. "The states have drug their feet and made it impossible for them to comply," he explained.
If the LEOSA improvements bills become law, retired officers will need to have an official ID from their agency and qualify with a state-certified firearms instructor who qualifies police in their states of residence. This could make it much easier for retired officers from say Wisconsin or New York agencies to exercise LEOSA carry rights.
Unfortunately, there is no enforcement teeth in the proposed laws. So states that still want to drag their feet likely will. But Forbes says the legislation could help officers from the anti-LEOSA states who have retired to other more LEOSA-friendly states.
Forbes believes the Senate bill has an excellent chance of making it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee for a floor vote this year, especially since its sponsor Leahy serves as chairman of the committee.
On the House side, things look a bit tougher. The House Judiciary Committee is chaired by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) who may try to prevent it from reaching the floor.
If Conyers does block the legislation, Forbes says he will use a congressional procedure called a discharge petition that requires 218 votes from the overall House to move the bill to a vote. Forbes thinks he has a good shot at success. "I'll tell you there are a group of people on the Democratic side who would not want to vote against this bill."
Forbes is "very optimistic" that the LEOSA improvement legislation will be approved by Congress in time to reach President Obama's desk next year.
However, he added that law enforcement officers should call their senators and representatives and voice their support for the bills. "Calls are much more effective than letters and e-mails," he said.
H.R. 3752 is supported by the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Union of Police Associations.