The confusion with concealed carry

What law enforcement needs to know about the LEOSA Improvements Act

      On any given day of the week, you can find Glen Hoyer wearing his reliable wrist watch, an item he says he couldn't live without. He's never worn rings; they bother him. As is the case with most American adults, he's also got his cell phone and keys in his pocket. There are several everyday articles that the retired South Carolina captain carries with him that wouldn't raise eyebrows, but there's another item that might-- his gun.

   "The fact that for 35 years now I have been carrying a gun-- 25 professionally as a police officer, [and] now 10 years as retirement," he says. "It's just become a part of my lifestyle. [Not carrying it] is kind of like walking around with one shoe off; you just feel awkward."

   A retired law enforcement officer, Hoyer invokes his right to carry a concealed firearm, not just in the State of Virginia where he now resides, but nationwide as part of the 2004 Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act.

   However, since the Act was established in 2004, many states, agencies and officers have struggled with comprehension and implementation of the law. Thanks to confusion regarding liability, eligibility and the definition of terms used in the Act, many agencies are still working to create a certification process to comply with the 2004 law, while many officers' concealed carry permits remain in legal limbo. Some agencies have opted to bide time since the Improvements Act was proposed last year, not wishing to put forth any effort to implement a process before some of what groups with law enforcement officers' interests say could be considered kinks in the original law. A retired law officer, NRA rep and legal counsel help us wade through the confusion with concealed carry and discuss how the proposed amendments may help.

The law's guiding principles

   Hoyer, director of the National Rifle Association's Law Enforcement Division with nearly three decades experience in police work, says the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act is one of the greatest benefits for police, giving retired officers the right to carry after their service is up.

   "You've got a tremendous amount of law enforcement experience in a retired officer," Hoyer says. "The intent of the law is not to make an additional hundreds of thousands of cops out there [come] out of retirement and back on the street; the intent is to allow them to protect themselves."

   Enacted in 2004 by President Bush, the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA, also commonly called H.R. 218) allows two classes of individuals-- the "qualified law enforcement officer" and the "qualified retired law enforcement officer"-- to carry a concealed firearm in any jurisdiction in the United States, regardless of state or local laws to the contrary, with certain exceptions.

   The federal law established guidelines allowing experienced retired or off-duty officers who maintain proper training, to obtain certification allowing him or her to carry concealed firearms. Essentially the Act's purpose was to create a shared national policy between states allowing officers to carry their firearms wherever they are, granted they are qualified and have received credentials per the Act to do so. With some limitations, LEOSA trumps state law, local ordinances and local policy that restrict concealed weapon carry outside of the badge.

   Hoyer retired as a captain from the Lexington County Sheriff's Office in South Carolina after 25 years experience in multiple police disciplines including patrol, K-9 unit, SWAT and firearms instruction. As the NRA-LE Division director he oversees the entire law enforcement division, which includes the firearms instructor development training department, the competitions department and the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program. With his policing background and present-day work, Hoyer gets a lot of face time with cops across the country. Though he personally has been able to get his concealed carry certification without trouble, he's heard plenty of stories from officers who have hit snags securing LEOSA carry rights.

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