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The basics: LEOSA and constitutional/permitless carry by state

Make sure you know the rules before crossing state lines with your firearm


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Constitutional carry or permitless carry authorizes citizens who legally possess a firearm to carry their handgun concealed and/or in plain sight within their state. While each state has its own laws, permitless carry is commonly restricted in schools, government offices and bars, or is limited by age: 18 years old if you’re military, or 21 for civilians.

As of this writing, half of the states have passed laws allowing constitutional carry in one form or another except for North Dakota, which allows for residents only. Alabama most recently passed a constitutional carry law that will take effect in January 2023. Louisiana may soon pass its own legislation to become the 26th state to allow constitutional carry. Open carry laws vary from state to state, with some states allowing permitless carry for everyone and other states just for residents. Some states may have reciprocity with adjoining or other states.

The challenges of LEOSA in permitless carry states

Because most anyone of legal age can carry concealed in about half the states, the potential threat level to law enforcement officers, including active and retired, rises exponentially.

I have discussed the ability to obtain retired or qualified credentials once retired or separated in previous articles. Those limitations aside, LEOSA certification may also be challenging in a permitless carry state when there are no standards or resources are limited. If you reside in a constitutional carry state, then LEOSA may be a moot point if you never travel outside your home state. However, almost everyone has the occasion to travel across state lines after separating from law enforcement.

Unfortunately, some states, including those without permitless carry, and/or some local agencies, may no longer conduct LEOSA certifications, or flatly refuse to qualify anyone but their own officers. That may make it extremely difficult to obtain or renew annual qualifications and certifications necessary for out-of-state travel. Most often, retired or qualified officers must reach out to a local police or sheriff’s office to obtain LEOSA annual firearms qualifications.

Again, some agencies will not conduct qualifications for anyone other than their own active or former officers. Some states may not have established LEOSA qualification standards. In that case, under 18USC926(c)(4), you may need to seek out a qualified law enforcement firearms instructor in your state to qualify you and issue you a certificate for the one-year period that you’ve met that state’s firearm qualification standards. Check with the National Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor Association or NRA Law Enforcement for more information and a list of instructors in your state.

Concealed carry credentials and LEOSA

If you reside in a permitless state like Alaska that does not perform LEOSA certifications, you may seek out a qualified instructor or apply for a concealed permit in special cases, like retired LEOs. However, if you are traveling on a state concealed carry permit, rather than a LEOSA qualification card, you must check and follow reciprocity laws in the states in which you may travel. You should be checking local carry laws anytime you are traveling to another state.

Some states like Alabama only require you to carry your credentials for concealed carry. If you are carrying just your retired or qualified credentials in your home state, it is likely nullified once you cross the state lines. Very few states recognize just your credentials as a right to carry without accompanying LEOSA qualification, so it is inadvisable to travel without a LEOSA qualification beyond your state’s borders when armed. Therefore, obtaining a multi-state recognized concealed weapons permit is strongly encouraged.

States like Utah will issue an out-of-state permit to non-residents that is recognized in many other states. Check the local laws in your jurisdiction. All other permit required states and most U.S. territories (except Puerto Rico) require you to carry your credentials and a current (within one year) LEOSA qualification card while traveling armed.

Permitless carry by state

The following states allow, or soon will, permitless carry:

For further LEOSA and concealed carry permit information, contact your state’s Law Enforcement/Criminal Justice Training Commission or other entity listed for information on obtaining LEOSA qualifications and certification.
Lastly, personal liability in a firearms incident can be almost limitless, so if you carry you should have insurance. The FOP, PLEA, NRA and USCCA all offer concealed carry insurance for law enforcement.

Pistol cases for airplane and train travel
Purchase a TSA-approved hard-sided case for transporting your concealed carry firearm during air or train travel

Dan Phillips retired after serving 23 years as a military criminal investigator and 16 years in the security and counterintelligence fields for the federal service. Today he is a security manager for a major defense contractor.

Dan serves as the LEOSA program chair for the Washington state Fraternal Order of Police. He is a regular contributor to Police1 and has also written in Police Chief magazine.