The Federal Gun Free School Zones Act of 1995, Title 18 §922(q), does not provide an exemption for the off-duty possession of firearms on school grounds by police officers under the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act.
It is a violation of federal law for an off-duty LEOSA-qualified sworn officer to carry a gun within a school zone, which is defined in §921(a)(25) as “in, or on the grounds of, a public, parochial or private school” or “within a distance of 1,000 feet from the grounds of a public, parochial or private school.”
This does not affect on-duty police officers. Section §922(q)(2)(B)(vi) allows firearm carry “by a law enforcement officer acting in his official capacity.”
It is also lawful for holders of concealed firearms licenses to possess firearms in school zones, as long as the license is issued by the state in which the school is located, and the licensee’s qualifications are verified by that state.
Further, this federal legislation does permit for the transport of unloaded firearms in locked containers within vehicles on school grounds, where not otherwise prohibited.
LEOSA supersedes most state and local laws regarding off-duty LEO carry, but it does not override federal laws, such as the GFSZA of 1995.
The penalties for violating the GFSZA are a fine, imprisonment for not more than five years, or both. Curiously, §924(a)(4) states that, despite the five year prison term, such a violation is considered misdemeanor for all other legal purposes.
By my read, we need an amendment to the GFSZA to rectify this situation. The recent changes to LEOSA do not cover it, nor do I think that LEOSA would be the proper legal place for such an exemption.
Simply put, if you are off-duty, armed under LEOSA only, and on, or in 1,000 feet of, school property, you are in violation of federal law. We may need to rethink that drop-off car line.
Make sure you check out my prior article on the recent improvements to LEOSA.
Randall is a twenty-three year sworn police officer in a mid-sized Florida police department. He has been an FTO, K9 Handler, Detective and SWAT Team Leader. He is currently the Midnight Shift K9 Sergeant and department SWAT Coordinator.