In the case of In re Carry Permit of Andros, A-4077-06T4, the Appellate Division held that the State of New Jersey’s authority to revoke a retired police officer’s permit to carry a handgun is not preempted by federal law.

James Andros was an Atlantic City police officer from 1968 to 2003. Prior to his retirement in good standing, Andros applied for and obtained a permit to carry a handgun. This action concerns Andros’ appeal from a judgment granting the State’s application, under N.J.S.A. 2C:39-6L(6), to revoke his permit to carry a firearm.

Andros challenged denial of his motion to dismiss the State’s application because of federal preemption under 18 U.S.C.A. § 926C, enacted as part of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Safety Act of 2004, which amended 18 U.S.C.A. § 921, et. seq., relating to firearms. Andros contended: (1) that the revocation was preempted; and (2) the Law Division erred in finding that the State had presented “good cause” for the revocation.

The Law Division Judge denied Andros’ motion to dismiss on the grounds that the State was not preempted from revoking the license under N.J.S.A. 2C:39-6L(6). The Judge found that N.J.S.A. 2C:39-6L(6) did not bar a retired New Jersey law enforcement officer, or officers from other states who are qualified in those states, from carrying a concealed weapon as long as he meets New Jersey’s qualification standards. Consequently, the Judge concluded that N.J.S.A. 2C:39-6L remained valid.

On appeal, the Appellate Division, in affirming the revocation, held that the federal Law Enforcement Officers’ Safety Act of 2004, 18 U.S.C.A. §926C, does not pre-empt a state from revoking a retired police officer’s permit to carry a handgun under N.J.S.A. 2C:39-6L. In conceding Andros satisfied the requirements of federal act, the Court indicated a retired officer’s conduct permits the licensing state to revoke the permit, as evidenced by the requirements for qualification and testing every year in U.S.C.A. § 926C(c)(5). In other words, the federal act expressly permits states to set standards for training and qualification consistent with those of “active law enforcement officers.”  

The Court agreed with the Law Division Judge that the federal act merely preempts a state’s ability to preclude, or change the requirements for, carrying the firearm interstate, if the state permits licensing of the retired officer. As a result, New Jersey retains jurisdiction to hear the state’s contention that it can establish good cause justifying the revocation. With these principles in mind, the Court found no congressional intent to preclude the action taken by the State here and no basis for concluding that a state cannot revoke a handgun permit because Congress authorizes a carrier when licensed in one state to possess it in another. 

This case illustrates the State’s ability to limit a retired public safety officer’s ability to carry a firearm. Recently, this topic has become an important issue for retired officers throughout the State of New Jersey. This case is significant in that shows the State of New Jersey is not precluded under federal law from seeking and ultimately obtaining revocation of an officer’s permit to carry a firearm. The evolving case law regarding retired officers and their ability to carry a firearm should be followed closely so as to ensure the officers’ rights are protected.