A federal Judge in New Jersey just undid decades of an unlawful state preemption and ignorance over the federal law known as the Law Enforcement Safety Officers Act (LEOSA) codified as 18 U.S.C §926C. For New Jersey LEOSA permit holders and applicants, this is a big deal.
Background on the Law Enforcement Officer’s Safety Act
This federal law, first passed in 2004 allows two classes of people — the “qualified Law Enforcement officer” and the “qualified retired or separated Law Enforcement officer” (QRLEO) — to carry a concealed firearm in any jurisdiction in the United States or United States Territories, regardless of state or local laws with a few exceptions on state and private property.
Simply stated, a QRLEO is an individual that has served ten of more years in a law enforcement agency. Their service must be “in good standing” and they need to be mentally sound as well. They must not be a prohibited person, and must have qualified in the last year.
Congress amended the law in 2010 and 2013; in both cases expanding LEOSA authority and jurisdiction. Like most federal laws, LEOSA’s intent was supersede state law. Congress went as far as to declare LEOSA’s purpose was to implement “national measures of uniformity and consistency” and allow officers to carry a concealed firearm “anywhere within the United States.”
New Jersey Ignores Federal Law
For decades, New Jersey had ignored this federal law and created its own regulatory scheme known as the Retired Law Enforcement Officer Program (RPO) which mandated not only that a retired law enforcement officer must obtain this RPO permit from the state but also installed arbitrary qualifications, age, and recertification restrictions.
In November of 2018, with the support of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, I engaged the State of New Jersey and procured a meeting with the state’s Attorney General’s (AG) office in Trenton with our attorney, Larry Berger and representatives from every New Jersey law enforcement association including the NJ FOP. Despite the evidence and legal authority that we presented to the AG’s office, they rejected the preemption of the federal statue and insisted that the state law was defensible under the New Jersey Constitution. Interestingly, when asked they would not opine if defensible under the US Constitution.
A lawsuit against the state of New Jersey for violations of LEOSA was the only path forward. As the main advocate, manager and author of or legal arguments, our association joined forces with the NJ FOP. We filed suit against the state of New Jersey.
A federal judge, after three years of litigation, ruled NJ’s system unlawful.
What Does This Mean for New Jersey LEOSA QRLEO?
In the Judge’s order, he said:-Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment is hereby GRANTED;
This means the court accepted all the arguments the plaintiffs’ provided.
and it is further
-Defendants’ Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF Nos. 41) is hereby DENIED;
This means every argument New Jersey made trying to support the RPO permit scheme or its preemption of federal law was denied by the court.
and it is further
-that N.J.S.A.2C:39-5, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-6(1), and N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3(f) are preempted by LEOSA, as-applied, to any retired law enforcement officer who is qualified under 18 U.S.C. § 926C(c) (“QRLEO”) and has identification required by J 8 U.S.C. § 926C(d), regardless of their residence; and it is further
This decision officially preempts every NJ law that keeps QRLEOs from carrying in NJ. Every QRLEO can now carry in New Jersey without obtaining an RPO permit. As long as they’re compliant with the federal law.
-that any QRLEO who has identification required by 18 U.S.C. § 926C (d) may carry a concealed firearm in the State of New Jersey, including hollow point ammunition, without obtaining a Retired Police Officer permit under New Jersey law regardless of their residence or the agency from which they retired;
LEOSA ID Cards
Many state and federal agencies issue LEOSA ID cards. It doesn’t matter if the agency is in the QRLEO’s state of residence or not. Some New Jersey agencies already issue these LEOSA identifications and most federal agencies do as well. This is a sample LEOSA card from the Department of the Air Force. Any department in New Jersey may now issue similar credentials.
-and it is further
ORDERED that the State of New Jersey is enjoined from arresting and/or prosecuting any QRLEO who has identification required by 18 U.S.C. § 926C(cl) regardless of their residence or the agency from which they retired; and it is further
As long as a QRLEO is compliant with the federal statue, they are immune from arrest in New Jersey. This applies to state statutes concerning concealed carry or carrying hollow point ammunition.
ORDERED that the Clerk is instructed to mark this matter CLOSED.
Other Points for New Jersey LEOSA:
Under 18 U.S.C. § 926C, a QRLEO only needs to qualify once a year via any state recognized firearms instructor. That qualification is meant to be either at the “active duty” standard or standards set by any law enforcement agency. This could be any agency within that state to carry a firearm of the same type as the concealed firearm.
The federal LEOSA statue, 18 U.S.C § 926C, is silent on magazine capacity. Therefore, there is nothing in the federal statute that prohibits a state from enforcing magazine capacity limitations. But there is an argument that Section 18usc926(e)(B) covers magazines as well as ammunition. If the LEOSA Reform bill was passed, it was clarify magazine capacity issues.
State and Private Property:
The federal statue also allows the state to not permit LEOSA carry on state property. Private persons (Meadowlands complex, restaurants, etc) may also prohibit cary.
As the lawsuit progressed, I convinced the Department of Justice to weigh in in support of our lawsuit. They filed a Statement of Interest in the case that said “It is the position of the United States that qualified retired law enforcement officers who possess “the identification required by subsection (d)” of 18 U.S.C. § 926C “may carry a concealed firearm,” and use hollow-point bullets with that firearm, “[n]ot withstanding any other provision of the law of any State.” 18 U.S.C. § 926C(a); see id. § 926C(e)(1)(B). and now, the federal court in New Jersey has affirmed that position and no longer will a LEOSA compliant QRLEO have to live in fear of New Jersey’s laws.