For Active and Retired LEOs
By Chip DeBlock
If you obtain your Florida State Carrying a Concealed Firearm (CCF) permit and qualify with a handgun, you can automatically carry a revolver and/or a pistol no matter which you qualified with. With regard to the same section of the federal Law Enforcement Officers’ Safety Act (LEOSA and a.k.a. HR 218), however, the interpretation is divided. General Counsel for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) believes that the federal statute’s requirement to qualify with the “same type” of firearm as what is being carried concealed means pistol OR revolver. In other words, they don’t feel pistols and revolvers are the same type of firearms (i.e. handguns) and interpret the federal law as requiring you to qualify with a pistol AND revolver every year if you want to carry both1. In other states, like Virginia2 and Connecticut3, you may be required to qualify with every gun you intend to carry and have the make, model, caliber and/or serial number listed on your certification card. In contrast, the Associate Litigation Counsel at the National Rifle Association’s (NRA’s) Institute for Legislative Action believes it’s clear that the “type of firearm” refers to the broader Federal definition as handguns, rifles and shotguns instead of pistols and revolvers.5 As a result, “qualifying with a handgun enables you to carry any handgun under LEOSA, be it pistol or revolver. No separate qualification is necessary unless the state or agency has a different qualification standard for it.”6 They even go as far as to say that LEOSA doesn’t just apply to handguns, but that most firearms capable of being concealed are covered (except those specifically exempted).
Consider, for example, the case of District of Columbia v. Barbusin (Criminal No. 2012-CDC-00913). In it the Attorney General documented that “Congress made clear that the term ‘firearm’ ‘has the same meaning’ as in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3)…” which “defines a ‘firearm’ as ‘any weapon…which will…expel a projectile by the action of an explosive,'”.6 As a result, even the AR-15 possessed by special police officer Barbusin in this case was determined to meet this definition. Indeed, Section 9217 dealing with definitions of the Federal code does not define firearms or types of firearms as pistols and revolvers like some states (i.e. Florida) are doing in error.
The real potential for harm to a LEO comes in the lack of uniformity in applying LEOSA state-to-state or even within the same state. What happens if a retired LEO from Florida or Arizona4 is carrying a concealed firearm in Virginia or Connecticut and is involved in a shooting? Will he be arrested because he has “semi-auto”, “revolver” or both on his certification card Instead of the make, model, caliber (in Virginia) or serial number (in Connecticut) of the gun(s) he is carrying? Will he be exposed to criminal and civil liability? What if the retired LEO is from Virginia or Connecticut and involved in a concealed carry situation in Florida or Arizona?
According to Daniel O’Kelly, retired ATF Special Agent and Founding Director at the International Firearms Specialist Academy8, he agrees with the NRA’s interpretation. O’Kelly states that, under Federal law, the first way in which firearms are divided when classifying them is to differentiate “Long-guns” (Rifles and Shotguns) from “Handguns” (Pistols and Revolvers). O’Kelly goes on to say that some states require a permit to carry a Long-gun in a vehicle and that the procedures to put a concealed handgun to use (pistol or revolver) are quite similar. He also points out that the methods for putting Long-guns to use versus Handguns are quite different and, as such, is most likely the intent behind differentiating between the different “types”.
Jack and Judy Ragsdale, owners of Elite Arms Training, Inc.9 in Mississippi and both retired police sergeants, understand that the definition of “type of firearm” can change from state to state. To make matters worse, many states still don’t know how to deal with LEOSA after all these years (since 2004). The Ragsdales have two (2) concerns in qualifying with a different gun than what you might carry:
- How do you know your concealed firearm is reliable if you have never shot it or if you have only put one (1) magazine through it?
- There are slight differences between full size guns and pocket pistols.
Jack and Judy Ragsdale are big on training and your gun must be 100% reliable. The revolver vs. pistol issue is one sided. A semi-automatic shooter can shoot a revolver, even if he never has before, with more knowledge than the other way around. If the semi-auto double feeds, the revolver shooter may have no idea on how to fix the malfunction. Although you might think all LEOs are carrying semi-automatic pistols these days, there are a large number of correctional officers who still carry revolvers. The Ragsdales feel you should qualify with pistols and revolvers if you carry them concealed.
After researching this issue it has become clear that the LEOSA federal statute’s language is less than clear, confusing and commonly misinterpreted. We need more case law and rulings to standardize the interpretive challenges across the country in order to protect LEOs. This is why LEOAFFAIRS is currently working on partnering with a law enforcement union to help make this happen. Please watch for updates as we pursue this cause.
In the meantime, if you are retired and qualifying for LEOSA, please make sure your instructor is NRA Law Enforcement Certified and/or has the authority to perform LEOSA qualifications. If you are in Florida your instructor will have to be Criminal Justice Standards & Training Commission (CJSTC) certified too. Some instructors may require you to qualify on pistols and revolvers or on every firearm you intend to carry, a practice that generates additional fees. When you get your certification card hopefully it will simply say “handgun” under type of firearm used as it’s supposed to. Mine, unfortunately, says “Semi-Auto – Revolver” which means I had to qualify on both in order to carry both.
As luck would have it, while writing this article the new Pocket Pistols magazine for 2015 came out on newsstands. In it is a piece titled “50 State Carry Laws – In-depth review of state concealed carry laws across the country”10 written by Jeremy D. Clough. Please keep in mind that it deals with individual state laws and not the federal LEOSA statute. I have a link to this article in the related footnote10 below.
Disclaimer: This article is not legal advice and does not contain all the information on this topic including the applicable statutes. The author’s personal viewpoints, interpretations and opinions are contained within. Anyone seeking to take action on this topic or needing more information should consult with an attorney, reference applicable statutes and conduct their own research.
1 Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Office of General Counsel H.R. 218 and S. 1132 Summary and Overview – August 2012
2Implementing LEOSA in Virginia
3LEOSA Information Bulletin for Connecticut
4LEOSA Information for Arizona
5NRA – LEOSA Welcomes the Military by Requiring New Identification Card Language for All – James Baranowski
6 POLICE Magazine – Weapons – Does the LEOSA Carry Law Apply to You? – January 17, 2014 – By James M. Baranowski
10Pocket Pistols® magazine published bi-annually by Harris Publications, Inc.
Gun Buyer’s Annual® Presents #151
“Concealed Carry Gun Laws by State” by Jeremy Clough on 11/03/2014
New York, NY 10010