Traveling With Your Gun & Badge

In a recent article I wrote, Traveling Within the U.S. with Your Gun, I discussed some tips and advice concerning civilian carry of a firearm across state lines. The article was purposely aimed at private citizens, rather than law enforcement officers, because the rules are different depending upon which class you fall into. In theory, civilians are subject to the CCW laws of each state in which they travel, while LEOs are supposed to be free to travel throughout the U.S. without worry. I recently discovered that what is allowed in theory, and by law, is not always what is practiced.


Gun and Badge2The Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act (as amended by the National Defense Act of 2013) is a Federal law which was designed to allow active officers and qualified retirees to travel while armed without regard to state or municipal boundaries and changes in CCW that may occur. The premise behind the LEOSA is simple – LEOs never know when or where they might encounter someone who, due to a professional encounter, may recognize them and mean them harm. A secondary benefit of the LEOSA is that a traveling LEO would be equipped to aid another officer should the need and circumstances require it.

As I stated earlier, in theory, a qualified LEO/retiree should be free to travel from state A to state B or C without worry. However, since the passage of LEOSA, there have been rumors and stories of states which refused to follow the new rules, either by making it difficult for retirees to obtain necessary annual qualification or by interpreting the law incorrectly. Unfortunately, I recently witnessed this activity firsthand when I contacted the firearms licensing section in a neighboring state with questions about LEOSA practices. I was told that the LEOSA “only applied to retired officers” and that out of state officers should “unload at the state line.” After speaking with two representatives, one an active officer and one a retired officer, it became clear that neither was familiar with LEOSA. Fortunately I was… and you should be as well.

What LEOSA Allows

Travel across state lines – LEOSA does allow qualified officers and retirees to travel across state and municipal boundaries while armed WITHOUT a CCW permit.

What LEOSA Does Not Allow

Despite what many may believe, the LEOSA is not a “blank check” to carry anywhere, any time. There are limitations, which include not allowing officers to carry while intoxicated or under the influence of narcotics, prohibitions against carrying of machineguns or silencers, and not covering “other destructive devices” – in other words no grenades, bazookas or tanks.

Also, LEOSA does not override state or local regulations which restrict such carry on government property, in government buildings or at government facilities, parks, etc.

Who is Considered An LEO

LEOSA defines qualified law enforcement officer as someone who is employed by a government agency AND authorized “to engage in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of, or the incarceration of any person for, any violation of law and has statutory powers of arrest or apprehension under section 807(b) of Title 10, USC (article 7(b) of the UCMJ).” It further states that such individuals must be authorized by their employer to carry a firearm, not be under disciplinary action, and must meet agency qualification standards.

Retirees must have been employed in a qualifying position for at least 10 years, unless they left for disability reasons, must qualify every 12 months on a course similar to active officers within their state of residency, and must carry two identification cards – one identifying them as a retired officers and the other showing current qualification status.


Most importantly, and why you need to know the rules; the LEOSA is what lawyers call “an affirmative defense.” This means you CAN be charged for violations of local CCW regulations; however, if you are following the requirements outlined in the LEOSA, the charges are to be dismissed or withdrawn once reviewed by local authorities. If you encounter an officer who is NOT familiar with the LEOSA, maybe you can avoid this having to happen, but only if you know and follow the regulations yourself.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell

46 thoughts on “Traveling With Your Gun & Badge

  1. Great article. It clearly defines the provisions of LEOSA. Especially the part about have credentials identifying you as a retired LEO. The state agency I retired from (in Ohio) refuses to issue identification to retired officers, stating their legal department advised against it, worrying that if the officer used his weapon, they would be held liable. By the way, I met most of their attorneys, and they are incompetent.

    1. Your former employer’s attorney’s opine, is just that, an opinion based upon their experiences and guidance issued by the top law enforcement officer in your former agency. This is not going to be solved over night, but you and your colleagues should file a petition with the state supreme court. Besides, liability still rests with the individual officer (retired or otherwise) and does not rest with the department issuing the credentials. All the credentials state is that a.) you served at least ten years with X department and retired in good standing, and b.) the second card states that you have qualified within the past 12 months with the same type of weapon which was used in the performance of your previous duty. Nothing else is implied by the department issuing these credentials. The department’s attorneys seem to be unwilling to read and interpret the law as written and maybe need a state or federal judge to remind them of their responsibilities.

      1. Amazing that in Ohio. My father retired from OSHP in 1975 and he passed away in 2002. I still have his retired identification and badge as a memento.

    2. Another card carrying ACLU puke that want all guns banned. I ran into one of those at the JAG office at Randolph. It sure was fun to push his buttons.

  2. There is an issue with Retired Military LEO. The military does not issue a photo ID stating you were in Law Enforcement. You get a retirement ID, put it does not give the MOS or job description.

    1. DOD has mandated that all Military and Civilian LEOs get the new ID Cards who have held the MOS or Position of MP/SP or MA and all GS-0083 Police Officers that are retired and left the Agency or Department in Good Standing with 10 years or more. Each Military Branch is currently taking the DOD Instruction and forming it to their Branch. The Army and Air Force are currently issuing to Active and Retired. The Navy and Marine Corps are still working on theirs and should be out this year 2016. DOD Instruction 5525.12

        1. Thank you Chief for being knowledgeable about the military being added to the LEOSA law. A lot of agencies are not aware of the addition. I’m retired Army and I received my LEOSA credential last March after a four month vetting process by the hired contractor. I also possess the required state (WA) weapons qualification ID. I’m good to go.

        2. The LEOSA law is for police law enforcement. There are many situations in the service where personnel go about their duties armed. However, the LEOSA law is focused on the unique training and experience obtained in the police law enforcement field.

    1. Your DD-214 and military ID DOES NOT qualify you under LEOSA. You are subject to arrest and not in compliance with your service’s requirements. Read the law.

  3. Retired Air Force LEO can apply for and if they meet the criteria, they are issued a LEOSA (Photo ID) credentials. The Army is currently in the process of LEOSA credentials.

  4. Another issue I discovered speaking with a PA State Trooper is this…An active State LEO, when crossing state lines must comply with the laws and guidelines for an Out-of-State LEO carrying. Such as the amount and type of ammunition carried. How does this apply to the LEOSA?

    1. That is correct. You must comply with the firearm regulations of each state regardlesss of LEOSA status. LEOSA simply gives you an extended CCW as a private citizen so that you do not need an individual CCW for each state you travel too.

  5. Winterd962….Although you are correct that the military stander retiree ID does not identify that person as LEO, that is what the 928c (LEOSA photo ID credential) is for. Look at their website, be prepared to part with about $150 plus some more money to get your finger prints done and then qualify at a local police range once a year and carry that weapons certification with you along with your ID and, in theory, you should fulfill the requirement. But as the author of this article said, be prepared to have your status intentionally misinterpreted and outright ignored, as most police agencies do NOT want their fiefdom intruded upon by what they consider outsider has-been’s and wannabe’s…especially former military LEO, who we all know that civilian police look down upon, do not even recognize them as any type of police agency and give them about the same respect as they would a mall security guard.

  6. The Retired Military LEOSA does issue a photo ID for Air Force and Army. I am presently preparing the necessary ID card for the Army. The Army Provost Marshal General has the responsibility to issue the cards and service terms are verified through a contractor who processes each application.

    The existence of LEOSA may require the filing of a false arrest civil suit to get the necessary attention and education to current active LEOs, especially if a retiree is carrying otherwise in a lawful manner. I fear there are some jurisdictions, irrespective of the law, do not like “being told” what to do by the federal government. I also fear this problem does not exist in the western states where I reside. My state and my county especially, makes the range available and the county training officer available to issue the range cards as required by LEOSA and each appear very supportive of the act.

    1. Cliff, seems like you are in the know for the Army. Is the Army Counterintelligence Special Agents going to qualify for this? I have not heard them mentioned? Is this only MPs? Is the G-2 involved?

      1. Jim,
        I have heard mixed things about whether counterintelligence special agents can carry firearms. I know there are some that are enlisted/warrant in the Army, then theres Department of the Army CI Agents, and DOD/DIA CI Agents. What is the difference? I was reading online that they are 0132, not 1811. Are some of them 1811? Or are the 0132 with authority to carry?


        1. Yes, there are enlisted and WO Counterintelligence Special Agents. The MOS and training at the intelligence center at Fort Huachuca, AZ makes those in the counterintelligence MOS into Special Agents. (I taught there for 4 years.)
          Our Badge and Credentials say Dept of the Army. We and our commissioned officers are CI Agents.

          The FM-34-60 source List the Army CI Investigations as:
          Treason, Espionage, Spying, Subversion, Sedition, FIS-directed Sabotage, Terrorism, Assassination, and more.
          Is there a doubt that these are not laws and investigations? CI Agents do not always carry, and frequently do not, but always qualified.

          Defense Intelligence Agency is a DOD element. They have CI analysts. I am unsure if they have CI Special Agents. (These are sometimes Dept of Army, but it is DOD.

          Yes, we have a program called MICECP. This is their website.
          They hire civilians, many who are former Army CI Special Agents. They hire as 0132s.

          Yes, all CI S/As have the authority to carry, and apprehend. Just has they have the authority to conduct investigations, surveillance, and run sources. With a higher level training they can run national level sources. These are normally approved by senior members of the US Gov and multiple agencies. That is probably the difference of an 0132 and 1811. That and we fall under Intelligence Oversight and have to follow laws about US Persons. Our cases can take years…Read COL Stu Herrington’s book on the Conrad Case. Years!!! When I was at Camp Lejeune, and assigned to NIS, (before they got a TV show and called NCIS)…. the 1811s liked wall locker larcenies. Quick cases, 1-2 days. CI case can take years, many years.

          Below is some of our Army units:
          The 308th MI Battalion conducts counterintelligence investigations, operations, collection and analysis to detect, exploit and neutralize foreign intelligence entities, international terrorism and insider threats to U.S. Army Forces, technologies, information and infrastructure. On order, provides tailored CI support to overseas contingency operations.

          The 310th MI Battalion conducts proactive technical counterintelligence operations and support, counterespionage investigations and analysis and production to detect, identify, assess, counter, neutralize or exploit foreign intelligence entities, international terrorist organizations and insider threats.

          The 752nd MI Battalion conducts counterintelligence activities to detect, identify, assess and counter, neutralize or exploit foreign intelligence entities, international terrorism and insider threats in order to protect U.S. Army and Defense Department forces, information and technologies worldwide. On order, provides tailored counterintelligence support in support of Army requirements, INSCOM missions and overseas contingency operations.

          From FM 34-60 Counterintelligence:

          The CI mission is authorized by Executive Order (EO)12333, implemented by AR 381-20. The Army conducts aggressive, comprehensive, and coordinated CI activities worldwide. The purpose is to detect, identify, assess, counter, neutralize, or exploit threat intelligence collection efforts. This mission is accomplished during peacetime and all levels of conflict. Many CI functions, shown in Figure 1-1, are conducted by echelons above corps (EAC); some by echelons corps and below (ECB); and some are conducted by both. Those CI assets found at ECB respond to tactical commanders. EAC assets respond primarily to commanders of intelligence units while supporting all commanders within their theater or area of operations (AO).

          The FM-34-60 source List the Army CI Investigations as:
          Treason, Espionage, Spying, Subversion, Sedition, FIS-directed Sabotage, Terrorism, Assassination, and more.

          1. Jim,

            Seems legit. I’m just wondering where the authority to carry fits in for CI Agents if they are 0132 not 1811. Also for military CI. I would think if they’re Feds, don’t they already have federal authority to carry, and not need LEOSA?

            I’m interested in learning more on this.


          2. The difference for CI agents is that although Agents are trained/certified semi-annually (at least twice a year) at the range, Army açaí Agents are only authorizes to carry when deployed to combat areas of when participating in a joint investigation with the FBI (CONUS….which wasn’t always the case until more recently). Army CI agents have the authority to detain military personnel, civilian personnel and defense contractors who are subject to title 10, but do not have “arrest” authority requiring assistance from the MPs/CID/FBI as appropriate to place someone under arrest. This is why Army CI agents have not previously been covered under LEOSA.

  7. Will that include travel to PUERTO RICO? After all, no Stateside CCW is recogized in the territory and I wonder if they will recognized the LEOSA

  8. retirees can qualify in the state in which they retired as a police officer as well as in the state they now live in if they moved!

    1. I think the question is about a credential issued by the last agency you worked at. Acording to the LEOSA you are required to have a supporting documentation ID from your department. Retired officers would use their yearly qualification letter.signed by the range instructor.

  9. Understanding retired law enforcement officers are barred from carrying in federal buildings but has any legal determination been made regarding private places that put up the ‘No Guns’ red signs, a rule under CC permits?

  10. William:

    Sir with all respect to you Go read and reread the LEOSA Law.

    Private Property Owners, which includes; Shopping Centers, Malls, Stores, open to the General Public. Can Indeed Prohibit Qualified LEOSA Persons from Carrying on their Properties.

  11. Good article but heed what he said about states with specific laws. New York has a ten round capacity… you might be covered under LEOSA for CC but not your fifteen round mag in your 92 Beretta. He said you still get arrested and charged but your affirmative defense is the LEOSA. Concealed carry is the key, no one should know your armed unless you have to shoot someone! Be safe and carry on!

  12. Regarding military LEOs, I submitted my application for retired LEOSA identification today via FedEx. Will be delivered Monday. Had to supply passport photos and proof of FBI fingerprint check. Ordered holster and ammo pouches. Now to purchase liability insurance.

  13. I’m not a former LEO, but an ex-Marine and firearms enthusiast. One piece of legislation badly needed, at the federal level, is a bill that would certify any qualified and trained, law-abiding citizen to carry in multiple states. Hello, congress?

  14. Tom, You are an excellent writer…an even this old Marine could understand it.
    Now, the question, if a person is in the military, and they do 15-6 and other investigations, they carry a bullet launcher, would they be covered by LEOSA.
    Semper Fi,

  15. Hello,
    LEOSA is and was is intended to put more officers on the streets no matter what state one is from. Federal law supersedes all state laws on the subject. When an officer retires it does not mean those he/she/they arrested forget. If you are not aware of the law get educated. US Code 926c is very easy to comprehend. Know the term if you are in contact with a LEOSA or you could find you and your agency in a civil suit that could cost you. If you should injure or kill a LEOSA because you see a weapon think how you would respond. It will not be good. All LEOSA know safety that applies to officers and must consider officer safety first.

    1. You can carry whatever you want in the way of a handgun, so long as it’s legal in that state, You still have to abide by NY’s magazine law, no hollow point ammo in NJ, etc.

  16. Employed as a federal law enforcement officer, whether or not on official travel, and traveling armed in accordance with the policies or directives of the employing agency.

  17. Negative on the 10rnd limit for LEOSA carriers in NY. LEO’s (both Police and Peace Officers) are NYS SAFE ACT exempt, which the 10rnd limit law falls under the SAFE ACT and LEOSA members are Federally recognized as Law Enforcement Officers.

  18. Sounds like the DoD and/or Dept of Justice (at least on our federal level) has to AGAIN send out LEOSA info to all the state Attorney’s General reminding them of LEOSA and 18 USC 926 (b) & (c) so they can again filter it down to local departments. I’ve never incountered a problem but you never know when you’re going to encounter some idiot who never heard of LEOSA or thinks it doesn’t apply in his town.

  19. Here in Massachusetts the former Governor created a Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR – not the same as a Law) which makes the Colonel of the State Police the issuing authority and requires EVERYONE to purchase a MA License To Carry (LTC) or you can NOT get the State LEOSA certification. This is especially odd because in Massachusetts an Active Police Officer by Law does not need an LTC only a Department ID. It’s called “carrying on the badge” for 37 years my Dad never had a license. The LEOSA does not require a CCW permit, so how can MA, with the Supremacy Clause in mind, make a regulation that overrides Federal Law?

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