Correctional officers could carry their guns outside the security perimeter or put them in lockboxes.
The House on Tuesday passed a bill to allow federal correctional officers to bring their personal firearms to work and store them in secure lockers at their facilities.
Supporters praised the measure as critical to ensuring safe commutes for the Bureau of Prisons employees. The Lt. Osvaldo Albarati Correctional Officer Self-Protection Act (H.R. 613) is named for a former federal officer who was killed on his way home from work in 2013, allegedly in connection with his role in cracking down on cell phones inside a federal facility.
The measure, which the House approved by a 378-0 vote, would also allow the guards to carry their guns at their work sites provided they are outside of its security perimeter. Employees could store their firearms either in the lockers at the facility or in a secure lockbox in their vehicles that has been approved by the bureau director.
Federal correctional officers are pre-approved to carry a concealed firearm in the entire United States under the 2004 Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act. They were previously prohibited, however, from bringing their guns onto the grounds of their workplaces. Under a new policy last year, many bureau facilities already installed secure gun lockers. The new measure would make them mandatory and permanent.
“This is a huge step towards making our prisons safer," said Eric Young, president of the American Federation of Government Employees council that represents bureau employees. "The Lt. Osvaldo Albarati Correctional Officer Self-Protection Act guarantees that our officers will have a secure place to store their firearms to defend themselves, and will help us ensure that husbands, wives, children and grandchildren not be left behind because their loved ones were killed commuting to and from their place of work."
Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., said on the House floor Tuesday that the 37,000 federal prison employees are taken for granted.
“They’re the forgotten men and women of America who face evil—and I mean that in the strongest word—they face evil every day to keep our communities safe,” McKinley said. “This will provide them with one more tool to ensure they make it home safely to their families, giving them the peace of mind they need to perform their duties.”
In 2016, President Obama signed into law a measure aiming to boost federal correctional officer safety by enabling them to carry pepper spray on the job. Bureau employees have in recent months said that inadequate staffing and further efforts by the Trump administration to cut employees have endangered federal guards at bureau facilities.