The confusion with H.R. 218
One of the problems LEOSA-hopefuls encounter is cloudy language in the law.
Christopher Conte, legislative counsel at the Institute of Legislative Action with the NRA for 10 years, spends a good deal of his time working with NRA members and law enforcement officers' legal difficulties related to LEOSA. He says the problems the amendments aim to remedy include unclear language in the original act. For example, the term "qualified law enforcement officer" is not well-defined and needs to be better established. Another small portion of the bill cites "non-forfeitable pension" as a description for a "qualified" officer, however according to the research that has been done since LEOSA passed, Conte has found that "non-forfeitable pension" doesn't really mean anything. Confusing language creates problems for officers from state to state wishing to invoke LEOSA rights, and those are some of the things the modifications seek to redress in H.R. 218, Conte explains.
Another portion of LEOSA that needs attention, says Hoyer, is the number of years experience required to qualify under the Act. Under the current law, an officer can qualify after 15 years in active law enforcement. However it does not address the frequent situation where officers' experience is split between agencies.
Conte says officers who are vets from multiple agencies with enough experience qualifying them can get caught in a frustrating situation.
"What happens then is you get caught in this Catch-22 of trying to get documented from your prior department-- essentially patching together the years," Hoyer says. "This is exceedingly difficult for federal agents and is [an area] where [applicants] have really had issues."
Finally, Hoyer says he has fielded some questions at the NRA-LE Division regarding agency liability after certifying an officer. He says some departments wrongly view certification under LEOSA as a liability, should that officer later become involved in an incident where he or she used the concealed gun. Conte says he does not know of a case where civil suit has even been brought against an issuing authority of a concealed-carry permit to date.
Hoyer clarifies that once an officer is retired, he is an individual independent of the agency. The agency that qualified the officer is not liable for his actions outside of the uniform. "It's like suing the DMV for a drunk driver; it just doesn't happen," Conte adds.
Conte says there could be trouble if an agency continues to train the retired officer after he's been severed from the relationship with the department. But if all the agency is doing is certifying that he or she still knows how to handle a firearm with some level of discretion, it should side step that potential problem.
Conte also pointed out that the law is a living, breathing work that is continually reinterpreted and revised. So just because there is a move to amend the original LEOSA doesn't mean it was bad legislation, but instead that as the law has been in practice, idiosyncrasies such as language definitions and the split-experience exception come up. It's a natural part of the legal process to remedy hitches as they arise.
He also doesn't believe the pending changes to LEOSA are slowing adoption by agencies nationwide. He says agencies continue to understand the law and create a process to certify its officers via LEOSA rights. Even though it is in its sixth year since passage, the bill is still relatively young as a national directive, and implementation takes time and patience.
To address some of these issues, another bill known as The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act Improvements Act of 2009 ( S.1132 and H.R. 3752) offers revisions that address cloudy and confusing elements that have come to light since LEOSA's original passage. For example, breaking down the provisions, the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action says the Improvements Act addresses the following: