LEOSA: Don't Look Now

The 19th-century German monarch Otto von Bismarck once famously said, "Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made."

David Griffith 2017 Headshot

The 19th-century German monarch Otto von Bismarck once famously said, "Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made."

Anyone who has ever spent any time working in or around a state or federal legislature can tell you Bismarck was right. The process of making laws is ugly. You'd rather tour a sausage factory then spend a day in a legislature.

And implementing a law is even uglier than making it. Don't believe me? Let's take a look at the implementation of a recent law that affects you.

For more than a decade, Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham and the Law Enforcement Alliance of America (LEAA) worked to effect a federal law that would permit active-duty and retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed weapons in any jurisdiction. Despite attempts to block the legislation by anti-gun forces and states rights advocates, President George W. Bush signed it into law as the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act (LEOSA) of 2004 back in July.

And that's when the real sausage making began. On the surface, LEOSA is a pretty straightforward law. It defines who qualifies as a law enforcement officer and dictates that anyone who meets the criteria set forth in the law can legally carry a concealed weapon without interference by state or local statute. Easy, right?

Yeah, absolutely right. If you happen to be an active-duty police officer or sheriff’s deputy, it's easy. The only thing these sworn officers have to worry about in terms of LEOSA is whether their agency will let them participate and whether some municipalities will obey the law. Some cities have said they will enforce local law, regardless of what the feds say.

Where LEOSA moves into "don't look it's too hideous" territory is on two issues: what does the law say about officers who aren’t everyday cops or sheriff’s deputies, and what is the mechanism for identifying and qualifying retired officers?

If you want to read all about the confusion over who is a law enforcement officer and who isn't, go to the forum at Policemag.com and read some of the entries under the heading "Concealed Carry." In thousands of postings, your fellow officers from corrections, the department of defense, the U.S. Coast Guard, and various state probation offices have debated whether they qualify to carry a concealed firearm under LEOSA. And the only definitive answer is…maybe.

The same issue of exactly who qualifies under LEOSA is also a concern for retirees. But even retired municipal cops, who clearly fit the definition of officer under the LEOSA guidelines, are facing a complication that doesn't affect their active-duty colleagues: just how do they qualify.

Most law enforcement agencies don't have a program of firearms qualification for their retirees, much less retirees who moved into their jurisdiction when they started drawing a pension. So how will the Miami-Dade Police Department or the Phoenix Police Department cope with all the retirees who want to qualify? This is a critical question.

The Illinois State Police recently answered that question by setting up two courses of fire at two of its ranges to accommodate retirees who want to qualify for concealed carry. That’s two in the entire state.

The Illinois decision has angered some of the state's retirees because it's clearly inconvenient for them to travel hundreds of miles for their annual qualification shoots. However, Georgia police retirees envy them. The state attorney general’s office has argued that because Georgia lacks statewide standards for weapons qualification of active-duty officers that no Georgia police retiree is entitled to carry a weapon under LEOSA. Local police organizations are fighting this ruling.

These are just some examples of the confusion surrounding LEOSA. But take heart; implementing a law as sweeping as this one is always a matter of cutting through the confusion. My advice is to work with your police organization to protect your rights. And don't panic. Things will probably shake out just fine, once this sausage has had some time to age.

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