When the 108th Congress passed the original "Law Enforcement Officers` Safety Act of 2004"--authorizing active and retired police officers to carry firearms throughout the United States--it took a step forward in advancing public safety.
The premise of that law was simple: Allowing trained, active-duty and retired law enforcement officers to carry firearms could only enhance public safety. It would also allow current and former officers to defend themselves against revenge attacks by those they`d once brought to justice.
Since 2004, however, nagging issues in the original law have prevented police and the public from realizing its potential benefits. Many retirees, in particular, have complained that agencies won`t make the necessary annual training available.
The "Law Enforcement Officers` Safety Act of 2007" (S. 376), sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and a bipartisan group of Judiciary Committee members, would fix these problems. Among its provisions:
- S. 376 would reduce the period an officer must serve before gaining eligibility to carry firearms as a retiree. Under current law, only officers with 15 years of service are "qualified." This arbitrary requirement discriminates against those who go into law enforcement as a second career--after retiring from the military, for example. S. 376 reduces the requirement to 10 years.
- S. 376 eliminates the requirement that retirees have "nonforfeitable" retirement benefits to qualify. Some small agencies have no such benefits--but a retiree`s need to defend himself shouldn`t depend on his pension plan.
- S. 376 would clarify training requirements--ensuring that a retiree can meet the mandatory re-qualification standard either through the agency he or she formerly served, or through the state where he or she currently resides.
- S. 376 would create more flexibility in training. Currently, many retired police officers who are otherwise well qualified, can`t find a state agency willing to train them because of liability concerns. While those concerns are largely imaginary, S. 376 would fix the problem; it would allow certification of the retiree`s training by any person authorized to test law enforcement officers` qualifications.