On 22 July 2004, President George W. Bush signed H.R. 218, the "Law Enforcement Officers'
Safety Act," into law. The Act, now Public Law 108-277, went into effect immediately.
The bill exempts qualified active and retired law enforcement officers from local and State
prohibitions on the carrying of concealed firearms.
Frequently Asked Questions about H.R. 218:
Who is eligible to carry concealed firearms under this legislation?
Qualified law enforcement officers employed by or retired from a local, State or Federal law
A "qualified active law enforcement officer" is defined as an employee of a government agency who:
- is authorized by law to engage in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation,
prosecution or the incarceration of any person for any violation of law
- has statutory powers of arrest
- is authorized by the agency to carry a firearm
- is not the subject of any disciplinary action by the agency
- meets the standards, if any, established by the agency which require the employee to
regularly qualify in the use of a firearm
- is not under the influence of alcohol or another intoxicating or hallucinatory drug or
- is not prohibited by Federal law from possessing a firearm.
Qualified active law enforcement officers must carry the photographic identification issued by
the agency for which they are employed.
If you are an active duty law enforcement officer with any local, State or Federal governmental
agency and you meet all of the requirements above, you may carry a concealed firearm under the
provisions set out in the law.
A "qualified retired law enforcement officer" is defined as an individual who:
- has retired in good standing from service with a government agency as a law
enforcement officer for an aggregate of fifteen (15) years or more for reasons other
than mental instability, or retired from such an agency due to a service-connected
disability after completing any applicable probationary period of such service;
- was authorized by law to engage in or supervise the prevention, detection,
investigation, prosecution or the incarceration of any person for any violation of law
- had statutory powers of arrest
- has a non forfeitable right to benefits under the retirement plan of the agency for which
he was employed
- meets, at his own expense, the same standards for qualification with a firearm as an
active officer within the State in which he resides
- is not under the influence of alcohol or another intoxicating or hallucinatory drug or
- is not prohibited by Federal law from possessing a firearm
Qualified retired law enforcement officers must carry the photographic identification issued by
the agency for which they were employed and documentation which certifies that they have met,
within the most recent twelve month period, the active duty law enforcement standards for
qualification for a firearm of the same type as the one they intend to carry. This document must
be issued by the retired officers former agency or from the State in which he lives.
Please note that the definition of "firearm" specifically excludes machine guns, silencers,
explosives or other destructive devices as these terms are defined in Federal law.
Is the exemption provided by the law total, can I now carry anywhere at any time?
The new law exempts all qualified active and retired law enforcement officers from State and
local laws with respect to the carrying of concealed firearms. These officers are not exempt from
Federal law or regulation, which governs the carriage of firearms onto aircraft, Federal buildings,
Federal property, and national parks.
In addition, State (not local) laws which prohibit the carriage of firearms onto State or local
government property and State (not local) laws which allow private entities to prohibit firearms
on their private property would still apply to qualified active and retired law enforcement
The law says I am exempt from the laws of "any State or any political subdivision thereof." Does this mean the law is not effective in Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, or other U.S. territories?
No, the law applies in these places as well. The term "State" is defined in Chapter 44 of Title 18,
which is the portion of the U.S. Code that the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act amends,
and the one that applies when interpreting this Act.
Section 921, Chapter 44 of Title 18 reads: "The term "State" includes the District of Columbia,
the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the possessions of the United States (not including the
My agency has a policy that does not allow me to carry my firearm while I am
off-duty. Does this mean that this legislation will not benefit me?
If you are a qualified active law enforcement officer, you are legally able to carry a firearm under
the provisions of H.R. 218. There may be agencies which enforce or adopt policies, rules,
regulations, or employment conditions which discourage or punish officers which choose to carry
while off-duty, but such actions do not mean that the officer cannot carry under the provisions of
I am a retired officer, how do I qualify to carry under the provisions of this bill?
The legislation requires retired law enforcement officers to meet the active duty standards for
qualification with a firearm in the State where they reside or with their former agency. Retired
officers must qualify at their own expense and, once they do, will be able to carry the firearm
with which they have been qualified under the provisions of this Act.
While each State or agency may adopt different procedures (see below), the F.O.P. envisions that
retired officers will be able to qualify at the very same facilities used by active duty officers.
The State or agency will issue retired officers who have qualified with their firearm a document
certifying that the officer has met the State or agencies requirements. Retired officers must carry
this documentation in addition to their photographic identification.
My former agency and/or my State is not familiar with the new law and they have
no procedure in place to qualify me and issue me the required document stating
that I have met the active duty law enforcement standards for qualification with
the firearm I intend to carry. What should I do?
Though the law went into effect on 22 July, many States and/or agencies still have not yet fully
acquainted themselves with its effects, nor considered how they can or will qualify retired
We recommend that retired members first check with their former agencies, if they live close
enough to them to make it practicable, to see what options might be available. Next, we
recommend that retired officers contact the State Attorney General, the State Police, or whatever
State agency has the authority over law enforcement officer standards and training to learn the
latest information on how the States are going to qualify retired officers.
At this time, there are no pending Federal regulations or guidelines beyond the information
posted by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms on their website:
We strongly urge State and local lodges to work with their respective States and law
enforcement agencies to begin implementing procedures by which they can qualify retired law enforcement officers as described in the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act. Do not wait for Federal action.
We urge retired officers not to be frustrated with the pace at which these procedures are
implemented and ask that they instead work in a positive way to help their State and local lodges
on this issue.
I was injured in the line of duty and was separated from service or forced to retire
as a result of the injury. As a result, I do not have fifteen (15) years aggregated
experience as a law enforcement officer. Am I excluded from carrying under the
provisions of this new law?
No. Officers who are injured on the job and retired from active service as a result of that injury
are included in the bill, as per Section 926C(b)(3)(B). These retired officers are eligible to carry
under the law, provided that they have completed their probationary term of service.
Note that these officers must still qualify with the weapon that they intend to carry every twelve
months and are not exempt from the documentation requirements described above.
I am a fully-sworn law enforcement officer with statutory law enforcement
authority, but I work for a railroad, a private university or other nongovernmental
employer. I attended the same police academy, received the same
training and meet the same qualifications as my law enforcement colleagues in
my State. Am I able to carry under the provisions of H.R. 218?
No. You must be an employee of a local, State or Federal governmental agency to carry a firearm
under the provisions of this legislation.
With that said, the F.O.P. is aware of regulatory precedent in which some non-governmental
agencies received a waiver or special recognition declaring them to be a governmental agency for
the purposes of certain sections of Title 18, Chapter 44 of the U.S. Code. The F.O.P. has
investigated these precedents and has asked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and
Explosives (ATF) to issue a ruling indicating that law enforcement officers of the Amtrak Police
Department be considered as employees of a governmental agency for the purposes of the Law
Enforcement Officers Safety Act. We have not yet received an official reply.
Does this bill allow me to carry a firearm on an airplane?
No. This legislation exempts qualified active and retired law enforcement officers from State and
local laws regarding the carrying of concealed firearms. The carriage of firearms on aircraft is
regulated by other Federal statutes and airline policy.
For more information contact us.