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Concealed carry: Where and when?


I keep the Nano-vault cabled to the seat bracket in my pickup, allowing me to secure my pistol when I reach a no-carry spot.

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A couple of months back, Dan Marcou penned a piece here on Police1 related to retiree concealed carry under the Law Enforcement Officer’s Safety Act. I won’t repeat his valuable information here, but thought I would cover some pertinent off-duty carry topics we discuss with newly graduated officers, as well as retirees who carry concealed.

For active officers carrying off duty, know the limits of your enforcement authority. Some states grant all peace officers in that state full enforcement authority state-wide, but many others do not. Most states grant statewide felony arrest powers to their peace officers, but “common law” generally allows any citizen to make an arrest for a felony. Who can ever forget Gomer Pyle executing a citizen’s arrest of Deputy Barney Fife in Mayberry?

Read up on your statutes and decide right now just how far you will go to make an arrest while off-duty. If lives are in danger, your level of involvement seems clear, but what about a robbery with no harm being inflicted? Still, if a criminal is armed with a deadly weapon, harm could occur at any moment ... make your decision now and pre-program it on your hard drive.

Enforcement Authority
For retirees carrying under the Law Enforcement Officer’s Safety Act (LEOSA — often referred to as HR218), the federal law grants you NO enforcement authority, you are merely a citizen with a nationwide concealed carry permit. Decide right now the types of situations where you will draw and/or use your sidearm. Will you watch an armed robbery go down as a trained observer, using deadly force only to save a life, or will you actively interfere before a suspect can escape?

I’m not proposing an answer to this question, only suggesting the time to make those decisions is now, not when it is happening before your eyes. If a direct threat is posed to you, a family member or an innocent citizen around you, the answer seems simple – you should act. Such a threat is the very reason you are exercising your right to carry.

Off-Limits Areas and Storage Considerations
No one has unlimited carry privileges, even active officers are prohibited from carrying a weapon in a jail and many courtrooms. Retired officers or active officers outside of their jurisdiction who are carrying under LEOSA have additional limitations. You are specifically prohibited from carrying in jails, courtrooms, and federal and state government buildings. You are also barred from carrying on private property where concealed weapons are banned. Most concealed carry states require such private establishments to post signs at every entrance.

Though you might have heard differently, LEOSA does not require you to follow the same rules as a state-issued concealed carry permit in a given state. This fact was established in South Dakota in 2008 when an out-of-state officer shot an outlaw biker in a bar fracas during the annual Sturgis run. A local prosecutor charged the officer with violating the South Dakota concealed carry rule which prohibits permit holders from carrying in a liquor-serving establishment. The charges were summarily dismissed because the officers were covered under LEOSA, which does not prohibit you from carrying in a liquor establishment, although the federal law does forbid you from carrying while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Think ahead to what you will need when required to off-load a weapon, such as stopping by the US Post Office to mail a package (LEOSA says you can’t carry in a federal or state government building).

Police1 Contributor Tim Dees wrote a few months back about the Nano-vault for weapon storage. I found one on sale at Midway USA for less than $20 and keep it cabled to the seat bracket in my pickup, allowing me to secure my pistol when I reach a no-carry spot. The Nano-vault will double as a TSA-approved lockable container for packing your pistol away in checked baggage when traveling. At home I have installed a small digital-lock safe in a cabinet near my rear exit door. The one I bought was on sale for $29.95 at the local Harbor Freight store — damned cheap insurance against a visiting child getting their hands on a weapon.

Train Your Families
Before you carry concealed in the presence of family, train them how to respond in two specific situations. The first situation is for circumstances when you decide to move your family away from a threat. The goal in this instance is NOT to engage a threat but to escape to a safe location.

Keeping with the “Coaching Forward” theory of only using simple, positive commands, train your family members to “Follow Me!” Drill them at home to obey this command instantly, following behind you with any small children physically holding hands to avoid leaving one behind. You will lead the way to safety, possibly with a gun in-hand, moving steadily at a speed even the smallest can manage. If you are alone with a small child when a threat appears, your options are VERY limited. Escape is by far your best option in this case and deadly force may only be appropriate if the threat comes directly to you.

The second family scenario is one where you have chosen to engage a threat. In this instance, you may quickly become a bullet magnet, so your family must be elsewhere. I train another simple command for this eventuality, “Call it In!”

When you issue the “Call it In” command the family member is to move away to safety and call 911, reporting the circumstances, the fact that you are involved (using descriptive terms like “armed off-duty officer,” or “armed retired officer”), and your description. If your significant other or oldest child is capable they can assume command of the family’s evacuation, issuing their own “Follow Me” order to the group. Knowing your family is headed for safety will free you to engage the threat or help with the evacuation or treatment of others.

Know the limits of how far your agency will cover your actions and your ass. If you are carrying outside your jurisdiction or as a retired officer, consider purchasing concealed carry liability insurance. You may already be covered for home defense under a homeowner’s policy or can be with an extra cost rider. The National Rifle Association has self-protection insurance plans for both citizen and retired officer members that covers any situation – at home or away. The cost for such insurance is not significant and, even if you are fully in the right when using deadly force, legal costs could accumulate through inappropriate prosecution and/or litigation.

Going armed in society is not to be undertaken lightly and some officers choose not to carry off-duty or when they are retired. But, some of us wouldn’t ever consider going unarmed. There is no single correct answer on this quiz. If you choose to go armed, pre-make some deadly force decisions NOW and program them onto your hard drive for quick access under stress. Jump though all the legal hoops and go to the range more than just for the annual qualification shoot.

Next month I’ll discuss what weapon to carry and how to conceal it effectively.

Dick Fairburn has had more than 26 years of law enforcement experience in both Illinois and Wyoming. He has worked patrol, investigations and administration assignments. Dick has also served as a Criminal Intelligence Analyst, and as the Section Chief of a major academy’s Firearms Training Unit and Critical Incident Training program.