The new bill, signed Thursday, substantially adds to the list of those who can carry firearms in New Jersey to virtually all former uniformed law enforcement officers.
Previously, only interstate, state and local police officers, county sheriff’s deputies or corrections officers and state or or county park police officers were allowed to continue to carry their firearms into retirement.
“We’ve had many instances where retired law enforcement officers have stepped in to save lives in emergencies” said state Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth), one of the bill’s sponsors. “With this law, we’re expanding that pool of qualified people.”
Not all lawmakers went along with the expansion willingly.
“There’s no solid reason for this,” said former state Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex), who voted against the bill in the upper house, where it passed in May by a vote of 28-6.
Codey, a former governor, questioned whether low-risk professions like park rangers and revenue agents ought to be toting firearms after handing in their badges.
“When, during their performances of duty, did they have to use a gun?” Codey asked. “Rarely, if ever. … It just expands the number of people who are out there with guns, and that never ends up to anything good.”
On Thursday, O’Scanlon blasted Codey’s opposition to the law.
“I can’t think of a more ignorant statement,” O’Scanlon said. “What the hell is there to argue with here? It’s a slap into he face of these well-trained retired officers that he belittles their skill, training and dedication.”
Under a federal law enacted in 2004, the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) qualified retired law enforcement officers are permitted to carry a concealed firearm in most jurisdictions in the United States.
But in 2005, the New Jersey attorney general determined that it “not alter the obligation of retired New Jersey law enforcement officers to comply” with state laws proscribing who can carry a firearm.
The new law now also applies to retired police officers of the state park police, special agents of the Division of Taxation, Department of Human Services, NJ Transit, campus police officers employed by higher education institutions, state conservation officers, Palisades Interstate park police officers, housing authority police officers, juvenile corrections officers, parole officers and even full time Burlington County Bridge police officers.
They can all to continue to carry a gun in retirement, until age 75. However, all such officers must qualify semiannually on firearms proficiency exam.