President Obama on Wednesday signed into law a measure that will allow federal law enforcement employees to carry their service weapon during a government shutdown or other forced, unpaid time off.
Obama signed the 2015 Federal Law Enforcement Self-Defense and Protection Act after it cleared the Senate last week. The measure -- which allows federal law enforcement to retain their weapon during any furlough period -- did not receive any dissent in either chamber of Congress.
Lawmakers pushed the bill after the 2013 government shutdown left agencies unsure whether law enforcement personnel could carry their official firearm while the employees were sent home.
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At least three federal agencies forbid their law enforcement officers from carrying their government-issued firearms while on furlough status during the last shutdown, proponents of the bill said.
“This decision potentially endangered these officers' lives by putting them at an unnecessary risk,” lawmakers wrote in a report on the bill. “Further, it prevented these highly trained officers from being prepared to respond to a critical incident or threat.”
The law will apply to any employee who has the authority to arrest or prosecute violations of federal law and is authorized to carry a gun on the day before the furlough begins. The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association originally conceived the bill and helped lobby members to support it.
“This issue has never been about shutdowns or firearms, but about the absolute necessity of ensuring the safety of our members and their families,” said FLEOA President Nathan Catura.
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., who introduced the measure, said the law would ensure federal personnel are not “needlessly disarmed on a technicality.”
“Dangerous situations can arise in any circumstance when you are a law enforcement officer,” Collins said. “Part of your job is being prepared to respond.”