Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-277)

Background:  On July 22, 2004, President George W. Bush signed into effect the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-277) 1. This law substantially changed the rights of active and retired sworn law enforcement employees 2 with regard to the carrying of concealed weapons throughout the United States.

The law states:

Notwithstanding any other provision of the law of any State 3 or any political subdivision thereof, an individual who is a qualified retired law enforcement officer and who is carrying the identification required by subsection (d) may carry a concealed firearm that has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce, subject to subsection (b). (18 USC § 926(C) (a)).

By enacting this law, the federal government effectively overrode state limitations on concealed carry by certain qualified personnel who meet the federal definition of retired law enforcement, as set forth in that section.

To be in compliance, the retired sworn member in question must carry a photo identification issued by the member’s former law-enforcement employer when carrying a concealed weapon. To meet the federal requirements, a retiree’s identification must either contain or be accompanied by a certification that the retiree has, within the previous 12 months, been tested and met the standards established by the issuing agency for training and qualifications required for active sworn law enforcement to carry a firearm.

The provisions of this Act indicate that such certification shall be at the expense of the retiree.

NOTE: The law allows the concealment of handguns only and specifically excludes machine guns, silencers, and destructive devices. Retired members are also reminded that carrying of and use or misuse of firearms may carry the potential for a personal civil and criminal liability. The Department assumes no liability by issuing this authorization and retired personnel are reminded that they are not entitled to sovereign immunity.

This law specifically recognizes the authority of private owners and state and local governments to prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons on their property. A retired member carrying under this law should also verify and comply with any restrictions applicable to military and federal facilities and parks prior to attempting to enter such facilities.

What does the federal Act mean for a sworn VSP Retiree?

To qualify for the Nationwide Carry Privilege, the sworn VSP retiree must receive authorization from the Virginia State Police. To do so, the sworn VSP retiree must first submit the following to the Virginia State Police Firearms Transaction Center:

  • Two passport photos – each 2×2 in size
  • Fingerprint Card
  • SP-216A: Retired Personnel Firearms Training Report
  • SP-218: Authorization to Carry a Concealed Handgun
  • SP-218A: Concealed Handgun Authorization – Retired State Police Officers
  • SP-218B: Authorization Application Checklist

The photographs, fingerprint card, SP-216A form and completed checklist may be submitted in person to the Firearms Transaction Center at State Police Headquarters in Richmond or by mail:

Virginia State Police
Firearms Transaction Center
P.O. Box 85608
Richmond, VA 23285-5608

When all items have been completed and submitted as a complete package, the sworn VSP retiree will be issued an Authorization card, an annual qualification sticker, and a letter from the Superintendent detailing the conditions of the Nationwide Carry Privilege. These items are mailed directly to the applicant.

The Firearms Transaction Center (FTC) shall enter the Authorization information in the Virginia Criminal Information Network (VCIN) so that the Nationwide Carry Privilege is made known to law-enforcement personnel accessing the Network.

The qualification sticker expires one year after the date it is issued. Prior to its expiration date, a sworn VSP retiree must re-qualify with his/her handgun and complete another SP-216A in order to renew the qualification sticker. If the qualification sticker expires, then the Nationwide Carry Privilege is removed and the Authorization card is only valid in Virginia.

The sworn VSP retiree is responsible for maintaining the status of the Authorization and qualification sticker.

The qualification sticker must be affixed to the allotted space as marked on the Authorization card.

Photographs: Two 2×2 Passport Photos – showing only head and shoulders from the front; professional attire encouraged.

Fingerprint Cards: An additional requirement under the law is that the Department may only issue authorizations to carry concealed handguns to persons not prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law. As a condition of issuance for the Authorization, the retiree’s fingerprints will be maintained in the Department database and the Authorization will be revoked at any time should the holder become ineligible to possess a firearm. Sworn VSP retirees will be required to provide fingerprint impressions to the Virginia State Police. The card submitted must be an “Applicant” card with “Reason Printed” block stating “VSP Retiree.”

SP-216A: Retired Personnel Firearms Training Report:  The annual requirement for firearms training and qualification for sworn VSP retirees can be accomplished in one of two ways:

  1. Sworn VSP retirees living in the Commonwealth of Virginia can attend firearms training along with active, full-time employees at one of the ranges located in the Department’s seven Field Divisions. The dates and times for this training are posted within this section – see schedule below – and are updated as necessary. Or, you can contact the nearest Field Division Headquarters.
  2. Where it is not convenient, as in the case of a sworn VSP retiree living out of state, the training may be provided at a commercial firearms range or local law enforcement agency, if such a service is available.

The sworn VSP retiree must complete the mandated training under the supervision of a qualified range officer and return the completed SP-216A to the Firearms Transaction Center. Upon receipt of the SP-216A, a qualification sticker good for one year will be issued to the eligible applicant.

Sworn VSP retirees who have completed firearms training within the last 12 months of their retirement date may complete form SP-216A to support that qualification. The SP-216A shall be signed by a VSP firearms instructor.

The Nationwide Carry Privilege expires one year to the date of the firearms qualification. Thus, sworn VSP retirees must re-qualify every year. If qualification lapses, then the Nationwide Carry Privilege expires and the Authorization card is only valid in Virginia.

SP-218A: Concealed Handgun Authorization – Retired State Police Officers: The sworn VSP retiree will undergo a “consultation interview” with an active sworn VSP supervisor. The completed form will then be reviewed and approved by the attending supervisor and the Field Division Commander. The SP-218A, accompanied by a completed SP-218: Authorization to Carry a Concealed Handgun, will then be submitted to the Department’s Human Resource Director. The Superintendent provides a final review and approval.

The completed forms are then submitted through channels to the Firearms Transaction Center for final processing in conjunction with other documents submitted.

1 Codified at Title 18 USC §§ 926(B) and 926(C).

2 As used in this section, the term `qualified retired law enforcement officer’ means an individual who–

  1. retired in good standing from service with a public agency as a law enforcement officer, other than for reasons of mental instability;
  2. before such retirement, was authorized by law to engage in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of, or the incarceration of any person for, any violation of law, and had statutory powers of arrest;
  3. (A) before such retirement, was regularly employed as a law enforcement officer for an aggregate of 15 years or more; or (B) retired from service with such agency, after completing any applicable probationary period of such service, due to a service-connected disability, as determined by such agency;
  4. has a nonforfeitable right to benefits under the retirement plan of the agency;
  5. during the most recent 12-month period, has met, at the expense of the individual, the State’s standards for training and qualification for active law enforcement officers to carry firearms;
  6. is not under the influence of alcohol or another intoxicating or hallucinatory drug or substance; and
  7. is not prohibited by Federal law from receiving a firearm.  18 USC §926(C) (c).

3 Title 18 USC § 921 defines the term “state” to include the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico,
        and all US possessions excluding the Panama Canal Zone.