Legal Update March/April 2024

Jeans waistband with gun stuck inside

Larry E. Holtz, Esq.

Concealed Carry for Retired Law Enforcement Officers

In Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association vs. Attorney General New Jersey (No. 22-2209; 2-14-2024), retired law enforcement officers from various agencies brought an action claiming that a federal statute, the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA), 18 U.S.C. § 925C, gives them a federal right to carry concealed firearms anywhere in the United States, including their home state of New Jersey. The Third Circuit agreed, holding that “thefederal statute does provide certain retired officers (those who meet all the statutory requirements) with an enforceable right, and that right extends equally to officers who retired from New Jersey agencies and those who retired from federal or out-of-state agencies. The federal statute also preempts contrary aspects of New Jersey law,” N.J.S. 2C:39-6(l).

Accordingly, LEOSA confers an enforceable right upon Qualified Retired Law Enforcement Officers (QRLEOs) “who are carrying LEOSA-compliant identification to carry a concealed firearm (subject to subsection (b)’s exceptions). And LEOSA expressly preempts New Jersey law to the extent that it imposes additional conditions or restrictions upon such QRLEOs who are in possession of compliant identification.” Subsection (b) provides, “This section shall not be construed to supersede or limit the laws of any state that – (1) permit private persons or entities to prohibit or restrict the possession of concealed firearms on their property; or (2) prohibit or restrict the possession of firearms on any state or local government property, installation, building, base, or park. 18 U.S.C. § 926C(b).”

Regarding the specific preemptions, the court declared that LEOSA preempts the following provisions of NJ law, as applied to QRLEOs who are carrying LEOSA-compliant identification:

(1) LEOSA’s definition of “firearm,” 18 U.S.C. § 926C(e)(1), preempts New Jersey law that bars the carrying of hollow point ammunition, N.J.S. 2C:39-3(f);

 (2) LEOSA’s definition of “qualified retired law enforcement officer,” § 926C(c), preempts New Jersey law limiting an individual’s ability to conceal-carry a firearm on the basis of age, state of residence, or jurisdiction of former law enforcement service, N.J.S. 2C:39-6(l); and

 (3) LEOSA’s definition of required identification, § 926C(d), preempts New Jersey law which requires individuals to obtain additional identification and/or more frequent firearms certification training before carrying a firearm, N.J.S. 2C:39-6(l).

The court also rejected the state’s argument that construing LEOSA to preempt the state law will burden active law enforcement officers in the field. Said the court, “We understand and appreciate that concern. But, implementation challenges cannot override Congress’s unmistakable intent to preempt contrary state law. And active law enforcement officers in New Jersey are already faced with determining whether retirees from federal or out-of-state law enforcement agencies are qualified to carry under LEOSA. … Determining LEOSA qualifications for retirees from New Jersey law enforcement agencies is unlikely to be more burdensome. … We may not ignore Congress’s unambiguous conferral of an individual right or its clear intent to preempt state law. In LEOSA, Congress granted certain retired law enforcement officers a right to carry a concealed firearm. And, LEOSA expressly preempts contrary provisions of state law.”

Larry E. Holtz has served as a Detective Sergeant with the Atlantic City, New Jersey, Police Department; a Deputy Attorney General for the state of New Jersey, and an Assistant County Prosecutor. Presently, Mr. Holtz is the Managing Editor of Blue360° Media, the largest US provider of legal information which is solely focused on serving law enforcement.                

Mr. Holtz is a certified police trainer and teaches on a regular basis. He is a member of the bar in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia and is admitted to practice before the federal bar in the District of New Jersey and the Third Circuit.