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Ranking Member Nadler Opening Statement for House Judiciary Markup of H.R. 354, the "LEOSA Reform Act"

Today, Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, for the House Judiciary Markup of H.R. 354, the "LEOSA Reform Act"

"Mr. Chairman, the LEOSA Reform Act would remove critical gun safety protections from the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act, or LEOSA, which became law in 2004.  To understand just how problematic this bill is, it is helpful to revisit a little bit of history from this Committee’s past.

Under a Republican majority, the Committee report on LEOSA began by explaining that, quote, “A State has traditionally, in the exercise of its sovereignty, controlled who within its border may carry concealed weapons and when law enforcement officers may carry firearms.”  The report explained that LEOSA would override virtually all state laws on concealed carry. 

It would supplant the judgment of the states about the appropriate use of firearms by off-duty and retired law enforcement—both for their own agencies and for the law enforcement agencies of every other state—and would force states to allow these individuals to carry concealed firearms within their borders.

The Republican Chairman of the Committee at the time, Jim Sensenbrenner, began the markup of the bill by saying, quote, “It is no secret that I am opposed to this legislation.  I believe it violates the principles of federalism and undermines the authorities of the States. . . This legislation would disregard the judgment of State authorities on what many believe is an important public safety issue.”  I agreed with these sentiments and we both opposed the legislation.

I also explained that the bill created a problem by allowing nationwide concealed carry by off-duty and retired law enforcement without any national standard for training. New York City could require one level of training, while a small rural city with very different needs and a very different approach to policing could require a very different level of training.  And yet each would be forced to allow the others’ off-duty and retired officers to carry concealed firearms within their community, and potentially even in interactions with their own on-duty law enforcement.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police, or IACP, opposed this legislation too because they were concerned about how it could endanger law enforcement and could lead to situations in which officers from one jurisdiction are killed or injured by local police who cannot distinguish between a criminal and a retired officer using a firearm.  The Police Executive Research Forum, or PERF, opposed the bill because it could put police agencies at risk for liability for an officer who misuses a weapon in another State, and because the requirements for retired officers were insufficient.

For all of these reasons, I joined former Chairman Sensenbrenner and other Members from both sides of the aisle in opposing LEOSA.  Unfortunately, it became law despite our objections.

Importantly, the law included exceptions for special places like government buildings, Gun-Free School Zones, and private property.  These exceptions have been in place for 20 years and have served as important protections.

But this legislation tosses those exceptions out the window.  This bill eviscerates the right of states to control the concealed carrying of weapons even in places where a state has a special interest in retaining control of its gun safety laws and where Congress has protected that interest for twenty years. 

It forces states to allow off-duty and retired officers to carry firearms on playgrounds, government buildings, and on buses, trains, subways, and boats. It reduces the rights of private property owners, including individuals and organizations, who may not want concealed weapons on their property.  It undermines state laws limiting magazine capacity by allowing some people to carry large capacity magazines even when a state has prohibited them.  It relaxes training standards so that some people will be able to carry a concealed firearm even though it has been 3 years since their last firearms training certification.

Not only does this bill infringe on the rights of states and private property owners, but it also unravels federal laws that have kept firearms out of federal facilities.  It does this for federal facilities that are “open to the public” and that are classified as “Facility Security Level I or II.” 

This definition will create significant confusion for those trying to abide by it and for those tasked with enforcing it.  If a federal facility is only partially open to the public or only open to the public during certain hours, does it fall within the bill’s definition?  We don’t know. 

What about a facility that is open to the public so long as they are not carrying firearms?  The bill does not say.  And, as the bill itself states, the facility security level is determined on a facility-by-facility basis and may not be publicly posted, so it is virtually impossible to know what federal facilities are included in this definition. 

We looked for a listing of federal facilities that are classified at these security levels and we could not find one.  Members may even have offices in federal facilities that will suddenly be forced to allow concealed firearms in their doors as a result of this legislation.

I was proud to join my Republican colleague, former Chairman Sensenbrenner, in opposing the original LEOSA.  He recognized that it undermined states’ careful determinations on how best to protect their citizens from gun violence. 

This bill is an even further intrusion on their ability to make their own judgments about public safety, concealed firearms, and the regulation of their own law enforcement.  For all of these reasons, I urge my colleagues to join me in opposing this misguided and poorly crafted legislation, and I yield back the balance of my time."

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