05.21.09

Leahy Introduces Bill To Improve Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act

WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Thursday introduced legislation to improve the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA).  The Leahy-authored legislation would make necessary improvements to the Act, which permits active and qualified retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed firearms in most situations.  The Act was signed into law in 2004.

The legislation introduced Thursday would make the LEOSA certification process more flexible for active and qualified retired officers, and would provide more uniform standards for eligibility.

“Introduction of this legislation to benefit active and retired law enforcement officers across the country is especially timely as the Congress and the country have just recognized National Peace Officers Memorial Day,” said Leahy.  “The dedicated public servants who are trained to uphold the law and keep the peace deserve our support not just in their professional lives, but also when they are off-duty or retire.  As a former prosecutor, I have great confidence in those who serve in law enforcement and their ability to exercise their privileges under this legislation safely and responsibly.”

Among other provisions, the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act Improvements Act introduced Thursday will:

  • Provide flexibility for retired officers to meet the firearms testing requirements necessary for LEOSA certification

  • Reduce from 15 to 10 years the required years of service for a former law enforcement officer to qualify under the current law

  • Amend the current law to provide clear standards and procedures concerning mental health issues and LEOSA certification

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On The Introduction The Law Enforcement Officers
Safety Act Improvements Act Of 2009
May 21, 2009

In 2003, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell and I, along with 68 other Senators, introduced a bill to allow qualified retired or current law enforcement officers to carry a concealed firearm across State lines.  The Senate passed our bill by unanimous consent, and it was signed into law in July 2004.  Passage of the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act indicated strong confidence in the men and women who serve to protect their communities and their Nation as the first line of defense in any emergency.

Introduction of this legislation to benefit active and retired law enforcement officers across the country is especially timely as the Congress and the country have just recognized National Peace Officers Memorial Day.  I am proud to introduce this legislation today.

This year, the Senate Judiciary Committee has turned its attention to State and local law enforcement.  It has held hearings about the importance of Federal funding at the local level, and how strong community policing and positive community relationships are fundamental to a prosperous economy.  I agree, and appreciated having the perspective at recent Judiciary Committee hearings of the State and local officials like Chief Michael Schirling and Lieutenant Kris Carlson from the Burlington, Vermont, Police Department.  I hope the Senate will continue its strong support of our law enforcement officers with support for this legislation. 

In 2007, the Senate Judiciary Committee twice reported the legislation I introduce today - once as a stand-alone bill and again as part of the School Safety and Law Enforcement Improvements Act.  I hope the Senate will act in the interest of so many law enforcement officers across the United States by improving and building upon the current law.   

Since enactment of the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, I have heard feedback from many in law enforcement that qualified retired officers have been subject to varying certification procedures from State to State.  In many cases, differing interpretations have complicated the implementation of the law, and retired officers have experienced significant frustration in getting certified to lawfully carry a firearm under the law. 

With the input of the law enforcement community, this bill proposes modest amendments to the current law, and will give retired officers more flexibility in obtaining certification.  It also provides room for the variability in certification standards among the several States. For example, where a State has not set active duty standards, the retired officer can be certified pursuant to the standards set by a law enforcement agency in the State. 

In addition to these changes, the bill makes clear that Amtrak officers, along with law enforcement officers of the Executive branch of the Federal Government, are covered by the law.  The bill also reduces the years of service required for a retired officer to qualify under the law from 15 to10.  The bill now contains clearer standards to address mental health issues related to eligibility for officers who separate from service or retire. These are positive changes to the current law, and the requirements for eligibility would continue to require a significant term of service for a retired officer to qualify, a demonstrated commitment to law enforcement, and retirement in good standing. 

The dedicated public servants who are trained to uphold the law and keep the peace deserve our support not just in their professional lives, but also when they are off-duty or retire.  As a former prosecutor, I have great confidence in those who serve in law enforcement and their ability to exercise their privileges under this legislation safely and responsibly.  The responsibilities they shoulder day to day on the job deserve our recognition and respect. 

I hope all Senators will join us in support of this legislation.   

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David Carle: 202-224-3693