A number of people wonder if there’s a way to get reciprocity with all 50 states. There is, but it’s not easy to get for the average civilian, and that’s LEOSA or the Law Enforcement Officers Security Act.
Until/unless national reciprocity is passed at the federal level (and survives any legal challenges) or is enacted by SCOTUS ruling, there isn’t any other way it’s going to happen.
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to set aside trying to argue about the way things should be, and concentrate instead on how they are. And when it comes to the issue of national reciprocity…they’re pretty bleak.
What IS LEOSA?
LEOSA, the Law Enforcement Officer Security Act, is a federal law that – for the purposes of this discussion – gives law enforcement officers the right to carry a firearm in all 50 states so long as that officer is fully qualified to make arrests and carry a firearm in their capacity as a LEO and is not otherwise prohibited from possessing a gun.
It applies to active duty, reserve/auxiliary officers, and retired or otherwise “separated” officers, which is the verbiage used in the law.
In short: anyone who is a police officer, and who is authorized to carry a weapon and must periodically qualify with it, can carry a sidearm in all 50 states. It does not cover shotguns or rifles, but it does get a person what could be called “reciprocity” with all 50 states.
Granted, some states are really not happy about it, as a number of officers have been arrested in various jurisdictions only to have the case dismissed at trial on grounds that they were carrying a firearm in accordance with the law.
Read that again. At…trial. They still arrested, charged, and arraigned police officers for acting inside the bounds of federal law.
The states of New York and Hawaii, according to various message boards, are supposed to be the most hostile to outside LEOs, and take a dim view of anyone carrying under the auspices of LEOSA. Supposedly, even FBI agents get hassled if they travel to Hawaii, though that could just be a rumor.
National Reciprocity Will Likely Require SCOTUS
A couple of years ago, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would have granted national reciprocity which did not come to fruition. It died in the committee in the Senate, and a number of people have wondered why it wasn’t renewed.
That’s a good thing. Here’s why:
The most recent attempt at a national reciprocity law used the Full Faith and Credit Clause to compel the states to recognize concealed carry permits. The bill would have been basically dead on arrival if it were passed as a result.
You see, the Full Faith and Credit Clause, contained in Article IV, Section 1 of the Constitution, holds that each of the states must recognize the vital records and official documents of the other. If you were born in, say, Montana, that birth certificate has to be recognized as an official document in, say, Delaware. If you got married in, say, Oregon, but later moved to, say, South Dakota, your marriage certificate has to be recognized.
Someone in the comments is going to mention driver’s licenses. If that’s you, stop right now. Driver’s licenses are recognized by all 50 states by voluntary agreement. The federal government has never compelled them to; they did it on their own before the federal government had to say anything. Furthermore…there basically isn’t a federal requirement for one, unless you drive a commercial vehicle.
Now, what does the FFCC have to do with national reciprocity?
The hitch is that the Full Faith and Credit Clause has exemptions for public policy, meaning that the laws of, say, California, don’t apply in, say, Texas. As of right now, federal law pretty much only suggests that you need to get a permit from your state of residence to carry a gun.
What that means is that concealed carry permits and concealed carry reciprocity are, for the moment, matters of public policy and are therefore left to the states to regulate. There are a few state permits that can get you reciprocity with 35+ states, but the last time I checked, the maximum number was 39 if you get an enhanced non-resident permit from Idaho, which requires you to take a course (including range time) and apply in-person.
Unfortunately, that also means that unless the Supreme Court gets involved and rules that if a person has a valid permit, all states must recognize it…we aren’t likely going to have national reciprocity, unless a federal concealed carry permit is created.
Until that happens, the only way to carry in all 50 states is via LEOSA.