Where can a police officer carry a gun while traveling? HR 218 Explained

by Scott on January 21, 2009

Editor’s Update: In October 2010 S. 1132: The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act Improvements Act of 2010 modified HR 218.

Before you do any traveling, here are some tips about your right to carry a firearm to another state based on HR 218, the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act.  Pass this article on to anyone in your department that might need it.

This issue has come up recently because four off duty officers were just granted a motion to dismiss after being arrested in Sturgis last year. They were arrested for carrying concealed firearms after a fight with some Hell’s Angels.  During the fight an officer shot one of the Hell’s Angels.

What the Law Enforcement Safety Act (HR 218) Allows

A qualified active or retired law enforcement officer who has photographic identification issued by their employing agency may carry a concealed firearm transported across state lines.

The Fine Print

Additional Requirement for Retired Officers

Retired officers must also bring state issued documentation that they qualified with the weapon they are carrying within the last 12 months.

Federal Land and Buildings

This law exempts officers from state and local laws concerning concealed carry but not Federal laws.  HR 218 does not exempt you on:

  • Aircraft
  • Federal buildings
  • Federal property
  • National Parks

Private Property, State and Local Government Land and Buildings

The law also grants states the authority to:

  • Permit private property owners to restrict concealed firearms on their property
  • Permit state and local governments to restrict concealed firearms on state or local government property.

Check with the state to see if their laws restrict carrying concealed firearms at these locations.

This Law is an Affirmative Defense; Officers can still be Arrested

The ATF sent a letter to the Fraternal Order of Police clarifying that officers can still be arrested for carrying concealed handguns.  HR 218 is only an affirmative defense that can be brought up before the judge.

Firearms Defined

Firearms do not include:

  • Machine guns
  • Silencers
  • Explosive or destructive devices

Qualified Law Enforcement Officer Defined

A qualified, active law enforcement officer is an employee of a government agency who:

  1. is authorized by law to engage in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or the incarceration of any person for any violation of law;
  2. has statutory powers of arrest;
  3. is authorized by the agency to carry a firearm;
  4. is not the subject of any disciplinary action by the agency;
  5. meets the standards, if any, established by the agency which require the employee to regularly qualify in the use of a firearm;
  6. is not under the influence of alcohol or another intoxicating or hallucinatory drug or substance; and is not prohibited by Federal law from possessing a firearm.

Qualified Retired Law Enforcement Officer Defined

A qualified retired law enforcement officer is defined as an individual who:

  1. has retired in good standing from service with a government agency as a law enforcement officer for an aggregate of fifteen (15) years or more for reasons other than mental instability, or retired from such an agency due to a service-connected disability after completing any applicable probationary period of such service;
  2. was authorized by law to engage in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or the incarceration of any person for any violation of law;
  3. had statutory powers of arrest;
  4. has a nonforfeitable right to benefits under the retirement plan of the agency for which he was employed;
  5. meets, at his own expense, the same standards for qualification with a firearm as an active officer within the State in which he resides;
  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 possessing a firearm.

Resources and Links

Police One Article

NJ Lawman Article


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{ 150 comments… read them below or add one }

Beane February 1, 2012 at 10:38 am

I am qualified under the safety act to carry a pistol in any state. Does this allow me all lawful purposes in other states such as target shooting, hunting, etc…

Todd February 8, 2012 at 10:12 am

Interesting comments on this thread, fellas. I have a few questions that maybe some of you could answer…

1) If I understand section (a) for active officers, you MUST be a member of a governmental entity. I work for the Commonwealth of Virginia, but some of my brothers in blue are police officers at private universities, though still carrying out the functions and maintaining the same training requirements as public/city/state officers. Do they fall under HR218?

2) Can anyone find a copy of HR218 in its current text? I see the amendments, but the only copy is the original 2004 text, which does not include the additions of Amtrak, etc. I am working on updating a PowerPoint I created for off-duty carry, as this is not well addressed in Virginia’s BLE requirements.

3) Has anyone had trouble with 18.2-308/HR218 in Virginia as a Virginia LEO?

@Ken, I believe the problem comes from the word active. We have auxiliary programs in Virginia where you are essentially a volunteer cop. That said, I believe that, if law provides, that you may make off-duty arrests and are in good standing in accordance with section (a), you should be covered. It would be good to check with the county prosecutor for interpretations, and have a memo on file at the department with those results.

@Howard…I know some agencies my way will let you piggy back on their annual qualifications, and that some state recognized CCW courses will allow you to qualify with their group. Just options. See if you can use your chief swagger with a fellow Chief in the area.

You all be safe out there.

IMTT March 29, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Does anyone know where I can find a list of states not covered and not recognizing HR 218? I just got off the phone with DOJ in California and they are telling me California doesn’t recognize HR 218 as well as 9 other states primarily located in the Eastern US. I can guess what states they are (the usual suspects). Anybody know for sure???

fredericksimon April 22, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Its new news to me that a retired officer who meets all qualifications and ius allowed to possesse a concealed firearm (HR 218). is now, according to ATF, can be arrested and then can pursue an “Affirmative Defense”. Sooo, after being arrested, released from jail by being “bailed out”, I then have to go to court as an acused criminal.now what kind of crazy mixed up is that ?. Am I to expect possibly a criimanal charge for obeying the law/authority.

Denny May 10, 2012 at 8:38 pm

The last sentence on my H.R. 218 permit reads “Pursuant to H.R. 218, this retiree is exempt from all local and state laws pertaining to carrying concealed firearms in the U.S. and Puerto Rico”

Big Dennis August 21, 2012 at 2:29 am

Re: Affirmative Defense…

Sounds like the wording is saying that *if* you do get arrested (for whatever), the use of LEOSA as a defense is appropriate. However, if you don’t get into a situation that is arrestable, you probably have nothing to worry about. I would rather roll the dice and have it but not need it than to need it and not have it.

JRS September 5, 2012 at 4:33 pm


JRS September 5, 2012 at 4:34 pm



HKE September 18, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Our retired ID cards were modified to include phrases plucked from HR218 like ‘retired in good standing’ and “the person identified herein was empowered to perform all duties of a peace officer… including powers of arrest and is authorized to carry a firearm per USC 18 Section 926C”. We also get a “retired peace officer compliance certification” when we qualify. This is from a California Sheriff’s department.

joe October 16, 2012 at 10:42 am

I am a retiered Peace officer,and have the required cards,and I’m a snowbird to florida for the winter.Just wondering do I have to check with the local P.D.

Bill November 7, 2012 at 8:12 pm

I’m trying to find is I am covered…prior LEO for 10 years before becoming partially disabled in an off-duty accident. Can stilldraw, fire, reload, and handle firearm safely, but don’t know if I can still do the running/climbing to meet this portion of 218: “during the most recent 12-month period, have met…the standards for qualification in firearms training for active law enforcement officers, as determined by: their previous agency, the State in which they live”.
Has anyone in a similar situation have experiences they can share? Thanks in advance

Thor Odinson November 12, 2012 at 1:15 am

A state has no choice regarding whether or not to accept LEOSA. Federal law trumps state law or city ordinance. Just like Denny said above. Any person can carry a weapon across state lines for legal purposes. Like a hunter in Kansas carrying a rifle to Colorado to hunt elk.
TV shows are just drama. Ever heard of a LEO pounding on a door, without warrant, and saying, “Federal agent—open up” Ridiculus!
It may be easier to get a CCW permit every 5 years–at least in CO.

Thor Odinson November 12, 2012 at 1:26 am

You can now carry a handgun in a national park. It was part of the amendment signed by Obama.

Paul Beaulieu November 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Myself and a friend of mine are both retired police officers in good standing from Michigan departments and planning a bike trip to South Dakota this coming summer. We always carry for protection and wondering if we are going to run into any problems if we are stopped while on the road.

Bruce M December 3, 2012 at 12:17 am

Some of the comments are pretty funny. You don’t have to be a POLICE OFFICER to qualify, you need to be a “qualified law enforcement officer” under the act.
If you have (had prior to retirement) statutory powers of arrest and statutory authority to carry a firearm, and worked for some aspect of government, you are pretty much covered. The amendments changed the definition of “retired” to some extent. They also made it easier for retirees to qualify – you merely need to find an instructor who is authorized by the State to qualify Police or Peace Officers, and take his course.
In New York Corrections Officers are certainly covered, as are Deputy Sheriffs, Court Officers, Probation Officers etc.
Even a Coast Guardsman has been deemed covered by the Law (but probably not after retirement).
There are NO States that don’t “honor” the law. It is Federal Law under the Supremacy Clause and has been upheld. The “hollowpoint issue” was resolved in the amendment. Ammunition is now declared to be a firearm for the purpose of the Act, so yes you can carry HP’s. Nothing NJ can do about it.
For all the people asking about Reserves and Auxiliaries, I doubt it. You don’t have statutory firearms carry, except on duty, and that is only when you are working. The Act is really for paid Officers. We do have part time Police Officers in New York, and they would be covered because their status does not change because they are part time, and they are full members of the pension system.
BUT, if you are some kind of part time Officer, and the Law in your State only gives you powers of arrest and firearms when you are working, I think you are out of luck. If you can not carry off duty without a permit, you probably do not qualify (except in certain States, such as MASS, where I understand even cops need to get a permit to carry off duty). If you don’t have off duty powers of arrest, I think you are out of luck. Statutory Police and Peace Officers have powers of arrest at all times.
If you are retired, you can qualify with a semi auto, a revolver, or both. They TYPE of handgun you qualify with is what is listed on your HR 218 card – semi, revolver, or both.

As to the guy who states he is a Peace Officer but he can be arrested in NYC?????
I don’t get that at all. Peace Officer status is conferred by the State of New York, and you are listed in the Peace Officer Registry. If you are a Peace Officer in one of the classes that requires a permit and your employer gets you a local one that is not valid in NYC, I think you are out of luck. You do NOT have statutory CCW authorization. It is a very grey area, and personally I would not test it, but that’s me.

Re: Bruce M. December 23, 2012 at 8:32 pm

What are you talking about? You keep talking about “statutory powers of arrest” meaning you can arrest on and off duty and that if someone can’t arrest or carry a weapon off-duty (under their agency’s authority), that they are not covered under LEOSA? Where the heck did you read that in the act? There are 6 requirements and the requirements only state that you must have statutory powers of arrest… that means the person could be given the authority to arrest only for the crime of “Cruelty to Animals” and as long as they meet the 5 other requirements in LEOSA, they are deemed a law enforcement officer as far as this act is concerned.

The biggest problem I see with LEOSA, is that everyone adds stuff to it, that is simply not in the act. Are you a government employee? Can you arrest someone (doesn’t matter for what or where or when)? Does your agency allow you to carry a weapon in connection to your duties? Do you qualify at least annually with the weapon? Yes? Then you are covered.

Chris December 24, 2012 at 3:26 pm

I have been doing some research on this topic for the last hour or so. I am a full time police officer in a municipal dept. in PA and am heading to NYC for the weekend. From what I am understanding I should have no issues carrying concealed as long as I am not under the influence of any intoxicant. If anyone has any argument to this please post… I’m sure I’m not the only LEO that would rather not get “locked up” and hassled for carrying when it’s what we do everyday.

Michael J Steczo January 3, 2013 at 8:50 pm

How do these laws affect someone who retired after only 8 years of service?

WV Ranger January 20, 2013 at 1:35 am

It’s a good law, but only a start.
Being required to remove my firearm before:
- entering the post office.
- being within 1000 feet of a school.
- entering a park (where state or fed. law prohibit)
- entering a crowded mall or other property prohibiting firearms.
- etc.

Many of these places are exactly where we NEED officers, on or off duty, with their sidearms.

I certainly hope lawmakers realize the folly of these restrictions, before too many more innocent lives are lost to those that do not understand nor care to follow the law.

Brian A January 30, 2013 at 6:29 pm

I have been researching a lot on HB 218 recently. I am a Reserve Police Officer, which means I completed a state approved Reserve Academy, I am an employee of the Police Department, other than the fact I do not get paid. I have an employee number and have worker’s comp payments entered for on-duty accidents. I am required to qualify with my firearm, and I am authorized to carry a firearm while on duty, just as a regular FT police officer is. I am interested to see where we fall, because recently another Reserve Officer inquired about this to our Chief and was told he could not carry while travelling across the country. Any responses would be very appreciated. Thanks.

Josh S. February 6, 2013 at 12:50 am

I would disagree with some of the statements rearding reserve officers. I am in Indiana, and most if not all of the reserve officers have the same credentials as the regular officers. They are encouraged to carry off duty, and posess all the same police powers. The only difference is that they rarely get paid for the work they do. HR218 would cover them.

Brett M February 19, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Just so everyone knows, the new law as signed also includes Military Police and Air Force Security Forces.

Jade February 22, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Mr. W. Weiss You cant not due the above in Kansas without the Permit and live here. So rethink it. Individual jurisdictions have there own laws. Your time out of retirement can not lapse here. Or you will be relegated to civilian. Granted you may not get charged but you could end up in quite a pickle if you fail to have one. Might, i remind yo that a county Sheriff is the ultimate authority in his own neck of the woods. In essence is also the head of the local militia.

Rick W. February 25, 2013 at 1:44 pm

NYS’s new Safe Act, until amended, seems to prohibit carrying pistols with more than 7 round clips? If the good guys can’t carry adequate protection, even under HR-218, who is left with guns? Should you be forced to defend against multiple threats just how far would 7 rounds be likely to go?

Mark Stanzel March 4, 2013 at 11:55 pm

I realize this is an old threat. But I’m looking for an Army buddy from the 1980′s while stationed in Germany. I need a statement confirming to the VA for disability. I found one of the drivers but would like to have a backup witness confirming my injuries. Any help on this matter will be strongly appreciated. If you know this is the same man, please forward me the information. I have photos to confirm our affiliation. We were stationed in Babenhausen, Germany. I was a private when injured. email me if you know this to be John T Young, mdstanzel@yahoo.com he would be between 44 and 46 years old now.

Fran April 26, 2013 at 3:58 pm

My husband in a lieutenant ( active) on the Massachusetts State Police. I am a retired correctional sergeant. We bought a house in Florida, and want to drive to our new home, as we have household items to stock the new home. Can we carry our weapons from Massachusetts to Florida? Thank you.

Lew April 30, 2013 at 1:31 pm

HR218 needs to be amended. They need to strike out the requirement for handgun qualifications. The retired leo id should be all that is necessary. All other restrictions need to be removed, except the need to be free of alcohol or drug use. Contact your local FOP and urge them to make this happen.

Phil T May 2, 2013 at 9:00 am

@ Rick W. If i’m not mistaken,that 7rds law does not say how many Magazines you can carry..You just need to purchase multiple Magazines…Problem solved…

John MAFFEO May 6, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Federal correctional officers are allowed to carry under H.R 218. We have powers of arrest and in NY we fall under peace officer

William Lyle May 6, 2013 at 8:23 pm

According to amendments of HR 218 and according to the legal department of the NRA, Reserve officers are covered under HR 218. http://le.nra.org/leosa/frequently-asked-questions.aspx

Rob D May 11, 2013 at 3:45 am

Ladies, Gentlemen as a Sergeant of a municipal police dept in Ohio of 24 years Ohio is a very welcoming State for HR218. Just let us know your carrying and be ready to show the proper ID and Retirement or Current Badge. We’ll shake your hand and tell you to stay safe. Most businesses will follow the same process upon our wishes too. Hope this helps clarify Ohio law and your all welcome to come visit any time!

William Dough June 23, 2013 at 7:14 am

To the woman moving to Florida; No, you can’t carry your firearm while driving from Mass. to Fla. if you drive through Maryland. Maryland is an idiots paradise like Mass. and Newyork. In fact Maryland is even WORSE! An out of state officer is facing murder charges in MD for protecting his family in a road rage incident. You must unload your firearms and store them away from the occupied area of the vehicle separate from the ammunition.

To all the officers here wondering about HR218; don’t try this in Maryland unless you want to go to jail and then live a nightmare getting back out of that state. Maryland does not play nicely with anyone. As a police officer retired or off duty I would comply with a back up plan by acquiring a Utah conceal permit that is reciprocal in 33 other states. You must also check regularly to see if this reciprocity hasn’t changed because “I didn’t know” is not a defense. Of course committing a crime that you didn’t intend to commit used to be a valid defense but try that concerning damaging wetlands that aren’t wet and dealing with the EPA.

William Dough June 23, 2013 at 7:17 am

Addendum to above comment: The Utah CCW permit is NOT reciprocal in Maryland.

William Dough June 23, 2013 at 7:36 am

This is the Federal law on citizens transporting firearms through states with strict gun control laws:

Federal Law on Transporting Firearms:
§ 926A. Interstate Transportation of Firearms

Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping,
or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry
such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such
transporting vehicle: Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove
compartment or console.

Note:If you travel through MD with the firearm unloaded and secured you are covered under Federal law.

This applies to everyone who is NOT a resident of Maryland…even ACTIVE DUTY police from other states.

V.Wells July 18, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Anyone know if H.B. covers state corrections officers from Ohio ? We work for a goverment agency, We are reqiured to re-quilify annually with a firearm and we do have limited arrest powers ,within the prison system , and at one point that Obama signed that some deptments that didn’t have statutory arrest powers was covered by the bill. I am a 20 year officer in good standing with the dept. If anyone knows if we are covered please let me know ,Thanks

R. Espinoza Jr July 22, 2013 at 12:44 am

I too would like to know as I’m a state correctional officer from Illinois, I too qualify every year with a firearm and have limited arrest powers with in the prison system. I am a 20 year officer in good standing with the Dept. Do I and my fellow officers qualify under the H.R.218 of the LEOSA Act

Jr August 6, 2013 at 1:48 am

What about private university police? In the state of Illinois they are covered under the Private University police act to have full police powers and conceal carry. Are they also covered under the federal law?

willy August 9, 2013 at 4:52 am

disability retired MP/CID from US Army 1974. no felonies, a dui(actually said drunk driving was charge, and 2 pills..sugar pills in 2005..and i didnt even drink then but did just finish helping florida dea) other than that …clean…….. donate time and information to federal agency inclusive of task force on drugs. have w.v permit to carry, and was wondering who protects me from threats after the busts go down. does mr. Obama supply some kind of protection for me or will my 45 be fine to carry. have gave time to 5 states and 1 is east coast where i have been threatened. hmmmmmmm

W. Weiss August 11, 2013 at 2:06 am

You really need to read HB 218 because you are wrong about everything you said in every single way. Your “Individual jurisdictions” statement is totally wrong. The correct “jurisdiction” is EVERY US state AND US Territory, which is under FEDERAL LAW, NOT LOCAL.
Regarding retirement lapse, there is no such thing as lapse with HB218. You can qualify for one year and carry your gun each and every day until your year expires at which time you’ll have to go shoot (and qualify) again. If you forget, let’s say for 6-years, all you need to do is go back in and qualify and you’ll be good for another year.
If you retired in, say, 1974 and never did ANYTHING, all you have to do is go to ANY HB218 instructor in the country, prove you were a LEO, that you are authorized to carry under HB218, qualify, and you’re good to carry for a full year.

Jim Sharich October 2, 2013 at 10:54 pm

I have a few questions. I retired in 2008 from the Military Police as a National Guardsmen for 22 years. I had UCMJ authority. Do I qualify under this act? What ID do I need to carry, just my retired pink ID? It does not say MP on it. I read the law to state my ID needs to say Police officer? Do I need to carry a copy of my DD214 with it as well and/ or my NGB22? It states I need to qualify every year? Do I just go to the range and shoot, or who qualifies me? I live in Illinois and this CCW info is still all a mess here. If I own multiple handguns, do I need to qualify on all of them, or is one pistol enough? Also, am I covered while hunting?

William Cisneros November 27, 2013 at 4:16 pm

W. Weiss, what is a an HB218 instructor? If a LEO is retired a retired ID is usually issued, but the new law includes “seperated” LEO’s. Here in Ca. some of us may be seperated and meet the requirement, but state agencies DOJ, Corrections etc. don’t have any mechanism for issuing seperated ID’s and have no intention of doing so.
Any ideas?

D.Franklin December 22, 2013 at 9:07 pm

I am a retired State of California correctional officer. I have my concealed carry permit and qualify annually. California law limits the magazine capacity to 10 rounds in semi auto handguns. Under HR 218 does it give authority to carry larger magazines in California or other states? If so what is the largest size that can be carried concealed in any state?

Sgt. Wilson January 16, 2014 at 10:30 am

I am now a S.R.O. for the Batesville School district in Arkansas. My Jr. High School that I am over took a field trip into Memphis Tn. for a trip to where Martin Luther King got shot at the Civil Rights Museum. This a privately owned building with its own security guards that have only radios. I am on duty as a S.R.O. in full uniform. The security guards stated that I can not enter on the property because I have a gun. Also they did not have a proper lock box to store my duty weapon. The school sent around 110 students with me on this trip that I wasn’t able to attend inside. I believe that as long as I am on duty and performing my duties as a officer they can not stop me. Am I correct? If any one can give me the correct information ( TN. State Statue ) to prove my point will be greatly appreciated.

DGlenn February 13, 2014 at 6:32 pm

Do I need to get some other type of ID card, other than my “Retired Officer” ID card, issued by my agency, and my annual qualification? I keep hearing about an HR 218 card. Is that separate from my retirement ID?

stanley wills March 12, 2014 at 12:20 pm

retired leo in new York state, would like to know that if upon retiring I am required to register my previously purchased hand guns on a new York state permit or is it fine to have them as originally on a C form as when purchased on my badge, and second under hr218 are we covered as leo for purchase of handguns please respond via e-mail

Michael Jones, Deputy Sheriff, FL March 31, 2014 at 12:41 pm

I have heard some discussion about Aux. and Reserve Officer carrying under 218. My Department has an
Auxiliary division made up of both Aux. Certified Deputies who can only carry when they are on duty with a fully certified deputy, and some fully certified Aux. Deputies who have the same powers of arrest, carrying firearms etc. that a fulltime fully certified deputies has. The full certified Aux ARE covered under 218. The question I have is about New Jersey and Hollow Point Ammo. Is there written somewhere about LEO under 218 being allowed carry Hp Ammo in New Jersey. My Department issues us our ammo. It is Hollow Points. We are REQUIRED to carry HP Ammo. Are we exempt in New Jersey? My understanding is that Federal laws overrules State law. Can some one email me with the location of any documentation the supports this?

Paul April 1, 2014 at 12:49 am

Sgt. Wilson… I believe that since it was a site on private property and not operated by a public entity, they have a right to restrict who enters their facility and under what conditions they enter. That includes not allowing armed LEOs to enter their property unless they have a warrant to do so.

John April 3, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Two questions which I can not find a solid answer for;
Why does my Calif. HR218 Card state, “HR218 compliant with proper CCW”? HR218 should require no such document.
Must I qualify each year with the handgun(s) I wish to carry, or simply qualify with a handgun and carry any of my legal handguns I desire?

Mike Cushman April 30, 2014 at 10:22 am

I am a retired police officer from California and now reside in Ohio.who is permitted to sign off on HR218 cards? Do you have to qualify yearly, and can you use multiple guns to qualify?

Huh May 20, 2014 at 1:55 pm

You only need 10 years……..

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