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However, this law does have limitations. Let's say you're a police officer in the state of Virginia, and you've decided to
take some college classes at Virginia Tech University during your off-duty hours. While Virginia has one of the most
liberal concealed carry laws in the nation, you'd better not be caught carrying on that campus. Even after that horrible
massacre of 31 students and faculty at Virginia Tech, their gun-free zone policy is being enforced as strictly as ever. The
fact that you're an off-duty police officer won't entitle you to be armed.
H.R. 218 doesn't change the politics and policies of most private and public institutions. Here's an example of some of
the silly stuff that has always happened and will continue to happen even with the new law:
Shortly before I retired, I was summonsed for a court appearance in Glen Burnie, MD which is located in Anne Arundel
County which shares its northern boarder with Baltimore City.
I entered the courthouse behind a uniformed Maryland State Trooper. The Trooper walked through an area around the
metal detector. Since I was in full uniform, I followed the Trooper. I didn't get far before being stopped by a security
officer who politely told me that I had to surrender my weapon.
While I questioned the court officer as to why I was required to check my weapon, three Anne Arundel county police
officers and one Maryland Transportation Authority officer walked past us into the courthouse without being required to
check their weapons.
Now, here I was, a uniformed Baltimore Police Lieutenant, and a member of the largest police department in Maryland,
being disarmed under really humiliating circumstances. I couldn't get the court officer to come clean about why only
Baltimore police officers were being disarmed, but I already knew the reason. Some judge or courthouse bureaucrat had
a bone to pick with someone, and this was his or her juvenile attempt at retaliation.
You're going to learn very quickly that a lot of people have a total disdain for the authority you possess, and that
handgun you carry is a powerful symbol of that authority. Whenever these types have a chance to exercise any amount
of authority over you, it's a temptation that's just too good to pass up. When they're in a position to lawfully disarm you,
they'll feel like they've died and gone to heaven.
H.R. 218 is a good law, and it's long overdue. However, as a new police officer, you won't be able to initially comprehend
all the complications that will occur along the way as the law becomes settled. For instance, you could find yourself in
another state and in the midst of a crime in progress. The implied intent of H.R. 218 appears to indicate that you're
expected to act. But...to what degree should you act?
Okay...let's say you're a police officer from Las Vegas, Nevada visiting Baltimore, Maryland. You're having a nice
dinner in an upscale restaurant when a disturbance breaks out. One of the restaurant's patrons is obviously intoxicated,
and he's become loud and verbally abusive toward the restaurant staff and other patrons near to him. Additionally, his
verbal abuse consists of threats to commit physical violence.
Since you're from Las Vegas, you probably have no idea what the Baltimore Police Department's policy is for an off-duty
Baltimore officer who finds him or herself in a situation similar to what you're now experiencing. You'll find that a lot of
police departments don't want their police officers, when off-duty, to take enforcement action(s); unless, such action(s) is
absolutely necessary. Baltimore is no different. An off-duty Baltimore officer's first responsibility is to contact on-duty
At this point in your scenario, your only responsibility under H.R. 218 would be to contact 911. But...let's take this to a
new level. Before the arrival of Baltimore police officers, this drunken moron acts on his threats of violence. He picks
up his steak knife, and he goes after his waiter. At this point, there's no question that you're going to act. Thanks to
H.R. 218, you have the means to threaten or employ deadly force to the extent it takes to protect lives and incapacitate
the armed suspect.
In this knife scenario you'd act even if you weren't armed with your handgun. You'd most likely arm yourself with a
dining room chair and go for broke. However, if your suspect is armed with a gun and you're not, you'd have few, if any,
options for aggressive action.
In my mind, it shouldn't be too difficult for you to comply with H.R. 218 -- even with all the questions which will arise --
as long as you act appropriately. By appropriately, I mean this: When you observe criminal activity, you notify on-duty
police officers and assist the on-duty officer(s) when needed. Prior to arrival of an on-duty officer(s), you should take
enforcement action only under imminent life threatening circumstances.
There's also a thing called police civil liability. Just because you act correctly, whether it be in your own jurisdiction or in
another state, that doesn't mean you can't be sued. Can you imagine how much more complicated things will get if you
take enforcement action in somebody else's back yard.
Never forget this...there's a lot of politicians who simply hate the idea of H.R. 218. Just because it's a law doesn't mean
anything to them. They'll exploit every weakness and omission (aka: loophole) in the law to make an example...and you
don't want to be that example.
There will, for certain, be examples. It's inevitable that police officers from other states will employ the use of their
firearms while in another state. As long as the use of deadly force is to protect the officer's life, or the life of another,
there shouldn't be a problem; unless, it can be argued that the officer's action(s) prior to the use of deadly force in some
way contributed to the creation of the deadly force situation. That covers a lot of territory, and here's my simple advice:
keep your mouth shut and act only when a life is in imminent danger.
H.R. 218 includes retired police officers as well as active officers. Retired officers have a tremendous advantage over
new, or much younger, police officers. They've been there and done that, and they're aware of the dangers of letting
altruism supersede pragmatism.
|Copyright © 2006 - 2014 - Barry M. Baker - CareerPoliceOfficer.com
In 2007 President Bush signed into law H.R. 218 (full text) giving active and retired police officers the right to carry a
concealed handgun anywhere in the nation.
But...like any new law, this law has more bugs than you can count. The creators of the law envision giving trained police
officers the ability to take enforcement action to protect life and property no matter where they might
While a majority of states now issue concealed carry permits, many are not that easy to obtain. In Maryland, for
instance, concealed carry permits are highly restrictive as to the circumstances under which you can be armed. Your
desire to carry a concealed handgun for self protection will not get you a
As a police officer, you'll probably be allowed to wear your handgun off-duty anywhere in the state where your
jurisdiction is located. Under H.R. 218 you'll now be allowed to cross state lines while wearing your handgun
as long as you meet the identification requirements as outlined in the law.