H.R. 218, the "Law Enforcement Officers' Safety Act" - Concealed Carry for Law Enforcement Officers

Law enforcement is a dangerous profession, and there is no legislation, act of Congress or government regulation which will change this sobering fact. However, there are ways to increase the level of personal safety for police officers. One of the most important is the adoption of a bill which would enable qualified active and retired law enforcement officers to carry their firearms when traveling outside their home jurisdictions.

On January 7, 2003, Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA), working with the FOP, re-introduced H.R. 218, the "Law Enforcement Officers' Safety Act of 2003." In the Senate, the companion bill, S. 253, was introduced by Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), a former law enforcement officer, slong with the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Senators Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT).

The legislation exempts all qualified active and retired law enforcement officers from State and local prohibitions on the carrying of concealed weapons. Under this legislation, active law enforcement officers will be permitted to carry their weapon while traveling outside their own jurisdiction. Similarly, retired officers will be able to carry in other jurisdictions, provided that they meet, on an annual basis, the firearms qualifications for active officers in the State in which they reside.

This is not a firearms issue—this legislation is about officer safety. And, on September 11, 2001, it became a critical public safety and homeland security issue as well.

Law enforcement officers are a dedicated and trained body of men and women, who, unlike other professionals, are rarely "off-duty." When there is a threat to the peace or to public safety, be it crime or terrorism, the police officer is sworn to answer the call of duty. Officers who are traveling from one jurisdiction to another do not leave their instincts, skills, or training at home; but without their firearm, that knowledge and training is rendered virtually useless. This bill will provide the means for law enforcement officers to enforce the law and keep the peace—enabling them to put to use that training and answer the call of duty when the need arises.

Law enforcement is a profession, and professionals fill its ranks. Among the many tools of the professional law enforcement officer are the badge and the gun. The badge symbolizes the officer's authority and, in worst-case scenarios, the gun enforces that authority. These tools are given to the officer in trust by the public to enforce the peace and fight crime. In asking Congress to pass this legislation, we seek a measured extension of that trust. In certain emergency situations—like a crime in progress, a terrorist attack or an assault on the officer or his family—all the training and knowledge an officer possesses may not be enough to interrupt that crime, respond appropriately to a terrorist threat or even defend himself or his family. Without the tool of his profession, the law enforcement officer is like a rescue diver without diving gear: all the right training and talent to lend to an emergency situation, but without the equipment to make that knowledge and training of any use.

The need for Federal legislation addressing this issue is clear, as is the Constitutional authority of the Congress to grant "full faith and credit" to the sworn law enforcement officers of any State or local government. The bewildering patchwork of laws in the States and other jurisdictions often results in a paradox for local, State and Federal law enforcement officers, sometimes placing them in legal jeopardy. As just one example, many of the volunteer law enforcement officers who gave of themselves to aid our nation in the aftermath of 11 September may have been in violation of several State laws if they carried their firearms into New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C. or northern Virginia. These men and women came to help their professional colleagues and lend their expertise to an extraordinary situation—yet many may have broken the law.

This legislation carefully defines who will and will not be able to carry under this bill. Only employees of a government agency who are or were authorized by law to engage in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation of crime, or the prosecution or incarceration of any person for any violation of law, and have or had statutory powers of arrest will be able to carry their firearms if this legislation is enacted. Active officers must be authorized to carry a firearm and meet the standards established by the agency which require the employee to regularly qualify in the use of a firearm. Retired officers must have retired in good standing from a government agency with at least fifteen (15) years of service (unless separated from service due to injury) and have a nonforfeitable right to benefits under the retirement plan of the agency in order to be considered "qualified." In addition, retired officers who wish to carry under this bill must requalify with their firearm at their own expense every twelve (12) months and meet the same firearm qualification standards as active law enforcement officers in the State in which they reside.

These are individuals who have been trained and entrusted by their communities with the use of firearms for the public good who chose law enforcement as their profession, not a hobby. These men and women are more than qualified and more than worthy of the measured extension of the trust that this legislation would provide.

This is not a controversial piece of legislation. In 1999, nearly identical language was overwhelmingly adopted by the House of Representatives on a 372-53 vote. Unfortunately, the underlying bill was defeated. Last year, this legislation garnered two hundred and sixty-nine (269) cosponsors in the House and forty-one (41) in the Senate. The Senate bill, which was then S. 2480, was amended and favorably reported by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary in November 2002. Both H.R. 218 and S. 253 reflect the minor changes made by that Committee.

It is an increasingly dangerous world that the men and women wearing the badge are asked to patrol, especially now, with the increased threat of terrorism. After dropping for nearly a decade, violent crime is on the rise again. The level and degree of violence in the crimes being committed is becoming almost incomprehensible in terms of sheer brutality. Even more striking is the lack of remorse with which this violence is committed. Law enforcement officers are targets of criminals and of terrorists—in uniform and out; on duty and off; active or retired. We need the ability to defend ourselves against the very criminals that we pursue as part of our sworn duty, because the dangers inherent to police work do not end with our shift. Criminals and terrorists do not give up their weapons when they cross jurisdictional boundaries, and neither should America's law enforcement officers.

The FOP strongly supports H.R. 218/S. 253, the "Law Enforcement Officers' Safety Act."

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about H.R. 218

Attorney General Memorandum: Guidance on the Application of the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004 to Current and Retired Department of Justice Law Enforcement Officers (1/31/05)

Press Releases

07/22/04 Law Enforcement Officers' Safety Act signed into law by President Bush!
07/07/04 H.R. 218 passes the Senate!: Measure will now go to the President for his signature
06/23/04 H.R. 218 passes House!!!: FOP's Grassroots effort instrumental to today's success
06/21/04 President Bush pledges support for H.R. 218!: Says the bill "will better protect our Nation from danger"
06/16/04 H.R. 218 passes House Judiciary Committee!
06/15/04 FOP support for Concealed Carry instrumental to today's success: H.R. 218 passes subcommittee, full committee action tomorrow
06/15/04 FOP testifies in support of H.R. 218: House subcommittee will vote on bill today
06/10/04 House subcommittee to act on H.R. 218: National FOP President to testify in favor of legislation
05/14/04 Two-thirds majority of House now supports H.R. 218: Support for Law Enforcement Officers' Safety Act continues to grow
03/02/04 S. 1805 rejected by Senate: Steve Young amendment passes, but underlying bill is victim of anti-gun efforts
02/26/04 Senate to vote on S. 253: The "Steve Young Law Enforcement Officers' Safety Act" debated in Senate, vote expected on Tuesday
05/13/03 FOP calls on Congress to pass H.R. 218; Senate companion measure close to having Senate majority
04/09/03 Majority of House now supports H.R. 218: FOP credits strong grassroots effort
03/07/03 Committee Action on S. 253
03/06/03 S. 253 Adopted by Senate Judiciary Committee
01/30/03 Campbell, Leahy and Hatch introduce FOP's top priority


07/20/04 Congratulatory letter from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist
07/08/04 Congratulatory letter from House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX)
06/23/04 Representative Cunningham thanks National President Canterbury and FOP on efforts to gain House passage of H.R. 218
06/18/04 Letter from President George W. Bush to FOP President Chuck Canterbury, offering support of the "Law Enforcement Officers' Safety Act"


06/15/04 Testimony of National President Chuck Canterbury before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on H.R. 218, the "Law Enforcement Officers' Safety Act of 2003."
07/23/02 Testimony of then National President Steve Young before the Senate Subcommittee on the Judiciary on S. 2480, the "Law Enforcement Officers' Safety Act of 2002."
07/22/97 Testimony former National Legislative Committee Chairman Bernard Teodorski before the House Subcommittee on Crime regarding concealed carry legislation for law enforcement officers.


Remarks made by Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA), sponsor of H.R. 218, on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives

Read Senator Campbell's floor statement regarding this legislation.

Read Senator Leahy's remarks regarding this legislation.

Read Senator Hatch's statement regarding this legislation.

Other Info

Maryland initiates state program to license retired officers to carry concealed

Kennedy May Drop Opposition to Concealed Carry (per report in CQ Today, 25 June 2004)

The Statement of the Administration Position (SAP) on H.R. 218 was released to the leadership of the House on the evening of 22 June after consultation with the Fraternal Order of Police.

H.R. 218/S. 253: It's About Officer Safety
A list of 58 officers, all of whom were "off-duty" when they were killed. Yet despite not being on the clock, the circumstances of their deaths qualified them as having died "in the line of duty."

H.R. 218/S. 253: Off-Duty or Retired, A Police Officer Is Always on Call
Accounts of off-duty and retired officers that demonstrate the danger that law enforcement officers face, no matter what their duty status.

Learn More:

Read the text of H.R. 218 and see if your Member of Congress is a cosponsor.
Read the text of S. 253, and see if your Member of Congress is a cosponsor.

For more information or elaboration, please do not hesitate to contact the National FOP Legislative Office at (202) 547-8189 or via e-mail.