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Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening in strong support of the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act Improvements Act of 2010.
In 2004 the Congress approved the bipartisan Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act, which allows qualified retired and current law enforcement officers to carry a concealed firearm anywhere in the United States. The law requires that retired officers maintain appropriate firearms training and be current in that training.
Since enactment of the law, qualified retired officers have faced varying and inconsistent certification procedures from State to State, and that complicates their ability to carry a firearm and be properly certified to do so.
The bill that is before the House tonight was introduced in the other body by the Judiciary Committee chairman, Senator Leahy, and it was introduced here in the House by my Virginia colleague (Mr. Forbes).
It modernizes the existing law in these very necessary respects. It will reduce from 15 to 10 the number of years a law enforcement officer must serve to be eligible to carry a firearm as a retiree with full privileges under the existing law. The 15-year requirement in current law inappropriately excludes many qualified retirees who go into law enforcement as a second career, often following their first career in the Armed Forces.
It will give retired officers more flexibility in obtaining certification to carry a firearm, while still maintaining rigorous standards for retirees who apply for this benefit. Our measure will clarify that a retiree can meet the qualifications requirement using either the standards of the agency at which the retiree formerly served, or those of the State in which the retiree currently resides.
It will also allow a certified firearms instructor qualified under State law to conduct the firearms qualification test for retired law enforcement officers.
It ensures that law enforcement officers of the Amtrak Police Department, the Federal Reserve, and the executive branch of the Federal Government are authorized to carry firearms under the law. And it also eliminates the requirement that retirees have nonforfeitable retirement benefits in order to qualify. That requirement unfairly excludes retirees from many of the smaller law enforcement agencies around the country which do not offer these retirement benefits.
Allowing the trained active and retired law enforcement officers to carry firearms on a nationwide basis enhances public safety by ensuring that officers have not only the means to defend themselves, but also the means to defend innocent victims from acts of violence. It also appropriately honors the men and women who so well protect our neighborhoods and protect our communities and our way of life.
The measure before us this evening was approved unanimously by the Senate in July. It is a commonsense, bipartisan measure that will ensure that retired law enforcement officers who have served honorably will be able to obtain the benefits conferred by the 2004 law. I urge approval of the measure.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
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