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Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I rise today to express my support for S. 253, the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act. This groundbreaking legislation will enable law enforcement officers to protect themselves and our communities, wherever they are, whenever they are needed. This legislation authorizes off-duty and qualified retired officers to carry a firearm anywhere in the Nation to help ensure the safety and well-being of law abiding citizens. While I strongly support this goal, I hope that amendments on the Senator floor will add additional common sense restrictions to the bill.

Today, the authority of off-duty police officer to carry concealed weapons varies widely from State to State. This complex patchwork of Federal, State and local laws places an undue and unnecessary limitation on professionals sworn to defend the public interest. The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act would allow active law enforcement officers to carry their weapons while traveling outside their own jurisdiction, anywhere in the country. However, the bill also preserves State laws that restrict the carrying of concealed weapons on private or government property.

Although we need to supplement the nationwide effort to increase security, it is critical that enactment of such legislation be limited to current licensed professionals. This new authority to carry concealed firearms should complement existing duty of police officers to protect their communities however, it must also provide clear channels of accountability.

I hope that the Senate will consider including the following common sense restrictions to improve this legislation for our officers and our citizens. First, we should limit this new authority to currently employed law enforcement officers. This will allow for reliable oversight by State and local authorities. We should also restrict the off-duty officer's firearm selection to handguns. This will reduce the potential for abuse and the unnecessary violence that high powered weapons may induce. We should also prevent off-duty officers from carrying weapons in places where alcohol is served. Clearly, guns and alcohol are a deadly combination, even in the hands of trained professionals.

Finally, even as we take comfort in the greater protection this legislation will provide, we must not lose sight of the fact that there is no substitute for a uniformed, on-duty police officer. The reluctance of the administration to provide adequate State fiscal relief has forced many police departments to downsize their police forces at a time when they have never been in greater demand. In addition, the inadequate funding of First Responders within the Homeland Security Department puts even greater strain on police departments and threatens our national security. Furthermore, the decision by Congress and this administration to deny level funding for the successful Community Oriented Policing program is a betrayal of the very communities that the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act is designed to protect. Though there is much to be gained by supplementing community security with armed and trained citizens, there is also much to be lost by law enforcement entities are not fully funded.

I intend to support the Law Enforcement Officer's Safety Act. It is my hope that this is only the first step to giving those responsible for our protection the tools and resources that are necessary to uphold their oath.

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