The Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act

The Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act (LEOSA) allows qualified law enforcement officers to carry firearms, without having to hold a License to Carry Firearms. Police officers refer to this as the federal “right to carry.” The law authorizes both active duty and qualified retired police and other law enforcement officials to carry concealed handguns across state lines without a state issued firearms license. To qualify, as a retired law enforcement officer, you must have a total of 10 years or more service as a law enforcement officer, and that definition includes service provided as a military or and Department of Defense police officer. Active duty law enforcement officers include officers of the Amtrak Police Department, Federal Reserve, and executive branch of the U.S. Federal Government.

While many police agencies argue that only full-time officers qualify for the right to carry firearms under the LEOSA, the plain language of the statute itself and decisions interpreting it suggest otherwise. For example, a Coast Guard reservist, who was off duty when he was arrested for carrying a firearm which the Coast Guard did not authorize him to carry while off duty was determined to be a qualified law enforcement officer and exempt from prosecution under the NY State Firearms Law. The US Attorney’s Office has recognized that the definition of “qualified law enforcement officer” is to be broadly interpreted.

In January of last year, Congress amended the LEOSA to require active and retired law enforcement officers to carry a photographic ID which identifies them as qualified under the LEOSA to carry firearms. This may be a problem for some because the LEOSA does not grant any rights to obtain the required ID card and it does not provide any recourse for an agency’s failure to issue one.

If you are a qualified law enforcement officer, either active or retired, you should check with your employer or former employer regarding your rights under the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act.