Washington, DC – A lawmaker from Nebraska will introduce legislation on Wednesday that would fix LEOSA – the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act – by exempting qualified active-duty and retired law enforcement officers from state and local restrictions.
Exemption from magazine capacity laws made it into the new proposal, which is something that has been missing from existing laws.
The purpose of LEOSA, which was passed in 2004, was to permit qualified, experienced current and retired officers to carry a concealed firearm in any jurisdiction in the United States.
Some states have attempted to limit the coverage of LEOSA within their own borders, prompting Republican U.S. Representative Don Bacon to introduce reform legislation.
“We have been made aware of various LEOSA abuses by states regarding implementation of this federal law and I will be introducing legislation in the 116th Congress to make improvements to LEOSA as identified by a coalition of law enforcement organizations,” Bacon told Blue Lives Matter in December.
Bacon’s proposed amendments will come as no surprise to many, particularly on the East Coast where states like New Jersey and New York have over-complicated routine travel for those specifically covered by LEOSA.
"Upon introduction, our changes to the LEOSA Reform Act in the 116th Congress will allow our law enforcement officers who have dedicated their lives to protect our communities, to continue doing so by extending their concealed carry privileges," the congressman said. "Allowing trained professionals with years of expertise to carry could allow them to respond more quickly to emergencies, and makes our communities safer."
"I know if I was in a crisis situation, I’d be relieved to have a retired officer near me who is trained and ready react safely," Bacon told Blue Lives Matter.
The National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) sent out a press release on Monday that applauded Bacon’s “LEOSA Reform Act.”
“We are pleased to have had the opportunity to work with Representative Bacon to revise his original bill to ensure that State and local law enforcement officers are protected,” FOP President Chuck Canterbury said. “He has proven to be a true partner on this effort and worked closely with the FOP to make sure our officers are physically safe and protected from legal jeopardy by closing existing loopholes in the statute.”
U.S. Representatives John Rutherford (R-Florida) and Peter Stauber (R-Minnesota) co-sponsored the LEOSA Reform Act.
Rutherford is a former sheriff and Stauber is a 22-year veteran of the Duluth Police Department, according to the press release.
The new legislation ensures that all active-duty and retired officers are able to carry concealed weapons in the same venues as civilian concealed-carry permit holders, such as schools, national parks, and on public transportation, the press release said.
It would also allow them to carry inside U.S. Post Offices, Social Security Administration offices, and Veterans Affairs facilities without having to disarm and secure their firearm elsewhere.
The FOP said they worked with Bacon to revise his previous bill so state and local officers would be covered the same as federal law enforcement officers.
Bacon’s proposed amendments are broader than those that died with his bill in the 115th Congress.
The new amendments address some specific issues that have come up in states that have sought to violate the spirit of LEOSA by restricting retired and active-duty officers carrying at will.
“Our coalition’s members, who are often retired law enforcement living in various states around the nation, are the individuals impacted by this law and notify us when they encounter problems with it,” Bacon told Blue Lives Matter.
The coalition backing Bacon’s proposed amendments is made up of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI (SFSAFBI/SFSAF), the Federal Law Enforcement Officer Association (FLEOA), the Association of Former Agents of the U.S. Secret Service (AFAUSSS), the FBI Agents Association (FBIAA), the National Organization of Police Organizations (NAPO), the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), and the NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA).
The changes to LEOSA that Bacon and his coalition have proposed mostly serve to clarify what has become a never-ending effort to codify what the framers of the original bill had in mind when it was crafted.
The original LEOSA legislation passed in 2004 allowed "qualified law enforcement officers" and the "qualified retired or separated law enforcement officers" to carry a concealed firearm in any jurisdiction in the United States, regardless of state or local laws, with certain exceptions.
The initial law unintentionally left open for interpretation exactly which officers individual states deemed to be “qualified” under LEOSA, and what kind of ammunition they could carry.
So in 2010, amendments were passed that extended and defined the coverage and requirements, paving the way for a larger group of active-duty and retired officers to carry under LEOSA.
They also expanded the definition of a permitted firearm to include any ammunition not prohibited by the National Firearms Act of 1934, thus shutting down New Jersey’s attempt to limit the carrying of hollow-point bullets.
Congress further expanded LEOSA with amendments in 2013 that extended its coverage to active-duty and retired military police.
The LEOSA Reform Act addresses specific state issues, or conflicts in the law, that have arisen, Bacon told Blue Lives Matter.
In December of 2018, a New Jersey law went into effect that limits the size of magazines to 10 rounds or fewer, and the state indicated it also applied to those carrying under LEOSA.
Bacon’s amendment would solve the issue by exempting LEOSA carriers from magazine-size restrictions.
“I am very proud of the work that Representative Bacon and the FOP have done together on this bill and I look forward to that partnership continuing as we move this bill through the House and ultimately, to the President’s desk,” Canterbury said.