1

The Disjunction Between Civilian and Peace Officer Firearms Training Requirements

Despite the deadly effects of firearms, ordinary civilians can often own and publicly carry them with far less training than is required of peace officers. A peace officer and a civilian are both capable and authorized by law to use a publicly carried weapon in a deadly manner. Yet, civilians can frequently access these deadly instruments with minimal or even no training. What might justify this disjunction between civilian and peace officer requirements? Does peace officers’ accountability to the public necessitate that they are more trained than the public they are meant to serve? Does the Second Amendment’s historical backdrop create a hesitation to regulate the citizenry to the extent that the law governs state agents? Have the ongoing policy aims of the political left and right to hold peace officers to higher standards and strengthen Second Amendment rights, respectively, facilitated two uncoordinated and divergent policy agendas? As the number of permitless carry states increases,[1] the gap between civilian training requirements and peace officer qualification requirements only widens.

I surveyed six states’ requirements for peace officer qualification and civilian firearms training: Texas, Georgia, New York, Maryland, Rhode Island, and California. Of these states, California, Rhode Island, and Maryland each require civilians to undergo some training before purchasing a firearm or carrying a concealed weapon. The table below describes state-mandated firearms training requirements for civilians, state-mandated firearms qualification requirements for all peace officers, and additional/modified firearms training requirements for peace officers in large cities (specific departments denoted in parentheses) within the respective states. Civilian prerequisites for the concealed carry of a firearm, rather than firearm ownership, are indicated with an asterisk. The concealed carry policies of states that lack civilian training requirements are classified as “may-issue,” “shall-issue,” or “permitless carry.” Any other distinctions, including those between ongoing training rather than qualification requirements, are indicated.

The disjunction most prominently appears in states without civilian training requirements. In Texas, a permitless carry state, peace officers are still subject to annual requirements that include an external inspection of their weapon’s functioning, a demonstration in its maintenance, and a course of fire. In Georgia, a shall-issue state without civilian training requirements, peace officers are subject to three hours of annual firearms training. The disjunction is comparatively narrow in states with civilian training requirements, with the possible exception of Rhode Island. Because Rhode Island’s unique policy permits police departments to develop alternative training proposals, civilians may be subject to more strenuous requirements than peace officers in some cases. Nonetheless, civilians can generally publicly carry a firearm with less training than is required of peace officers.

In response to the political and racial salience of police shootings, some have advocated increased peace officer training requirements.[2] However, peace officers appear to already receive significantly more firearms training than civilians, despite the capacity of both civilians and peace officers to use firearms in a deadly manner. This analysis does not seek to endorse the sufficiency of each state’s existing firearms training requirements for peace officers but instead highlights the comparative insufficiency of civilian firearms training requirements.

State

Civilian

State Law Enforcement

Large City Law Enforcement

Texas

(Dallas Police Department)

None

 

Permitless carry (effective September 1, 2021)[3]

·       Annual proficiency requirements include an external inspection of the weapon’s functioning, a demonstration in firearm maintenance, and a course of fire.[4]

·       The minimum course of fire requirements for handgun proficiency include “a minimum of 50 rounds, fired at ranges from point-blank to at least 15 yards with at least 20 rounds at or beyond seven yards, including at least one timed reload.”[5]

·       Complete 11 hours of classroom instruction and drill.[6]

·       Complete 48 hours of training at the Firearms Training Center,[7] which includes the following topics:

·       Concealed weapons (2 hours).[8]

·       One-handed tactical shooting (4 hours).[9]

·       Close quarters shooting with a pistol and shotgun (4 hours).[10]

·       Use of cover (4 hours).[11]

·       Qualification and armorer inspection of weapons (4 hours).[12]

Georgia

(Atlanta Police Department)

None

 

Shall issue[13]

·        Must annually complete a minimum of 3 hours of firearm training,[14] which includes the following:

·       Training on the constitutional and legal limitations on the use of deadly force.[15]

·       Training on the agency’s policies regarding the use of deadly force.[16]

·       De-escalation options for gaining compliance.[17]

·       “[A] demonstration of proficiency in the safe and effective use of any agency issued firearm [. . .] to include a course of fire.”[18]

·       Students must fire 30 rounds at various prescribed distances and conditions while wearing specified police attire.[19]   

 

·        Firearms training constitutes 48 hours of the academy curriculum.[20]

New York

(New York Police Department)

None

 

*Permits localities, i.e. Westchester,[21] to set training requirements.

 

May issue, requiring “proper cause”[22]

 

 

·       The state authorizes municipalities to set training requirements, which are to be supplemented by employer training requirements and must include firearms training.[23]

·       5 days of basic firearms training.[24]

·       10 days of tactical training.[25]

Maryland (Baltimore Police Department)

·       Complete four hours of instruction on state firearm law, home firearm safety, and handgun mechanisms and operation.[26]

·       Complete a firearms orientation component that demonstrates the person’s safe operation and handling of a firearm.[27]

·       * 16 hours of instruction,[28] which includes instruction on the following:

·       * State firearm law.[29]

·       * Home firearm safety.[30]

·       * Handgun mechanisms and operation.[31]

·       * A live-fire shooting component where the applicant must obtain a score of 70 percent.[32]

·       Complete 35 hours of classroom instruction, training, and qualification.[33]

·       Complete firearms training exercises.[34]

·       Complete a course of fire qualification that includes “[t]hree successive day-fire courses of fire” and “one reduced light course of fire.”[35]

·       Learn about the use of ammunition.[36]

·       Discharge a minimum of 1,000 rounds.[37]

 

·       “Only those officers who are qualified through the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions (MPTCTC) and are authorized by the [Baltimore Police Department] to carry firearms shall possess or use BPD-issued or approved firearms.”[38]

Rhode Island (Providence Police Department)

·       Complete a basic safety course.[39]

·       Pass a 50 question multiple choice and true/false test with a score of 80 percent or more.[40]

·       * Obtain a score of 195 or better out of a possible score of 300, with 30 consecutive rounds at a distance of 25 yards on any army “L” target firing “slow” fire.[41]

·       Fire a score of 165 or better out of a possible score of 250 with 50 rounds in the distance, time period, and position required in the course.[42]

·       Alternatively, law enforcement departments may annually present a proposal for their own firearms training and qualification program, which must require the firing of at least 100 rounds and satisfy other statutory requirements.[43]

·       Complete an 80 hour firearms training course.[44]

·       Attain a score of 70 percent during a handgun qualification course.[45]

California

(Los Angeles Police Department)

·       Attain a score of 75 percent on a written exam that covers subjects including basic gun safety, firearms and children, firearm operation and safe handling, firearm ownership, and firearm laws.[46]

·       * Complete an 8 to 16 hour training course,[47] which includes the following:

·       * Instruction on firearm safety, firearm handling, shooting technique, and laws regarding the permissible use of a firearm.[48]

·       * Live-fire shooting exercises on a firing range, including a demonstration by the applicant on safe handling and shooting proficiency.[49]

·       Complete training prescribed by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training,[50] which includes the following:

·       Know procedures for the safe handling of all firearms while on and off duty.[51]

·       Know the workings, the capabilities, and limitations of firearms in order to operate them safely and effectively.[52]

·       Know the capabilities and limitations of the ammunition they use in their firearms to operate them safely and effectively.[53]

·       Know how to properly inspect, clean, and care for their firearms to ensure that they function safely and effectively.[54]

·       Comprehend and practice the fundamental skills of firing firearms to be effective in reactive and precision situations during live fire exercises.[55]

·       Undergo an exercise test that “requires a student to demonstrate competency in combat shooting principles and tactics using a handgun, while wearing body armor and duty equipment, under daylight conditions on the combat course of fire.”[56]

·       Pass similar field tests that modify the above test by requiring low light conditions, the use of a shotgun rather than a handgun, and the use of a shotgun in low light conditions, respectively.[57]

·       Complete a firearms training curriculum that includes weapon care and safety, marksmanship, and tactical manipulation with the sidearm and shotgun.[58]

 

 

[1] See Many States are Pushing Through More Permissive Gun Laws, Economist, May 1, 2021, https://www.economist.com/united-states/2021/05/06/many-states-are-pushing-through-more-permissive-gun-laws. (stating that in the past twenty years the amount of states with permitless carry laws have risen from one to twenty).

[2] See Not Enough Training, Institute for Criminal Justice Training Reform, https://www.trainingreform.org/not-enough-training.

[3] Texans Can Carry Handguns Without a License or Training Starting Sept. 1, After Gov. Greg Abbott Signs Permitless Carry Bill Into Law, Texas Tribune, Aug. 16, 2021, https://www.texastribune.org/2021/08/16/texas-permitless-carry-gun-law/.  

[4] Tex. Admin. Code § 218.9(b), https://texreg.sos.state.tx.us/public/readtac$ext.TacPage?sl=R&app=9&p_dir=&p_rloc=&p_tloc=&p_ploc=&pg=1&p_tac=&ti=37&pt=7&ch=218&rl=9.

[5] Tex. Admin. Code § 218.9(c)(1), https://texreg.sos.state.tx.us/public/readtac$ext.TacPage?sl=R&app=9&p_dir=&p_rloc=&p_tloc=&p_ploc=&pg=1&p_tac=&ti=37&pt=7&ch=218&rl=9.

[6] Dallas Police Academy, Basic Training Curriculum 2, https://dallaspolice.net/joindpd/Shared%20Documents/DPD%20Basic%20PO%20Course%20Curriculum%20-%207-9-18%20-%20MASTER.pdf.

[7] Dallas Police Academy, Basic Training Curriculum 2, https://dallaspolice.net/joindpd/Shared%20Documents/DPD%20Basic%20PO%20Course%20Curriculum%20-%207-9-18%20-%20MASTER.pdf.

[8] Dallas Police Academy, Basic Training Curriculum 4, https://dallaspolice.net/joindpd/Shared%20Documents/DPD%20Basic%20PO%20Course%20Curriculum%20-%207-9-18%20-%20MASTER.pdf.

[9] Dallas Police Academy, Basic Training Curriculum 4, https://dallaspolice.net/joindpd/Shared%20Documents/DPD%20Basic%20PO%20Course%20Curriculum%20-%207-9-18%20-%20MASTER.pdf.

[10] Dallas Police Academy, Basic Training Curriculum 4, https://dallaspolice.net/joindpd/Shared%20Documents/DPD%20Basic%20PO%20Course%20Curriculum%20-%207-9-18%20-%20MASTER.pdf.

[11] Dallas Police Academy, Basic Training Curriculum 4, https://dallaspolice.net/joindpd/Shared%20Documents/DPD%20Basic%20PO%20Course%20Curriculum%20-%207-9-18%20-%20MASTER.pdf.

[12] Dallas Police Academy, Basic Training Curriculum 4, https://dallaspolice.net/joindpd/Shared%20Documents/DPD%20Basic%20PO%20Course%20Curriculum%20-%207-9-18%20-%20MASTER.pdf.

[13] Ga. Code § 16-11-129, https://codes.findlaw.com/ga/title-16-crimes-and-offenses/ga-code-sect-16-11-129.html.

[14] Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 464-5-.03.1, https://casetext.com/regulation/georgia-administrative-code/department-464-georgia-peace-officer-standards-and-training-council/chapter-464-5-training/rule-464-5-031-annual-firearms-training.

[15] Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 464-5-.03.1(b)(1), https://casetext.com/regulation/georgia-administrative-code/department-464-georgia-peace-officer-standards-and-training-council/chapter-464-5-training/rule-464-5-031-annual-firearms-training.

[16] Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 464-5-.03.1(b)(2), https://casetext.com/regulation/georgia-administrative-code/department-464-georgia-peace-officer-standards-and-training-council/chapter-464-5-training/rule-464-5-031-annual-firearms-training.

[17] Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 464-5-.03.1(b)(3), https://casetext.com/regulation/georgia-administrative-code/department-464-georgia-peace-officer-standards-and-training-council/chapter-464-5-training/rule-464-5-031-annual-firearms-training.

[18] Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 464-5-.03.1(b)(4), https://casetext.com/regulation/georgia-administrative-code/department-464-georgia-peace-officer-standards-and-training-council/chapter-464-5-training/rule-464-5-031-annual-firearms-training.

[19] Georgia Police Officer Standards and Training Council, Semi-Auto Pistol Qualification Course.

[20] Training Academy, Atlanta Police Department, https://joinatlantapd.org/training-academy/.

[21] N.Y. Penal L. § 400(1)(l), https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/PEN/400.00.

[22] N.Y. Penal L. § 400(2)(f), https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/PEN/400.00.

[23] N.Y. Crim. Proc. § 2.30(1), https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/CPL/2.30.

[24] Firearms and Tactics Section, New York City Police Department, https://www1.nyc.gov/site/nypd/bureaus/administrative/training-firearms-and-tactics.page.

[25] Firearms and Tactics Section, New York City Police Department, https://www1.nyc.gov/site/nypd/bureaus/administrative/training-firearms-and-tactics.page.

[26] Md. Public Safety Code § 5-117.1(d), https://codes.findlaw.com/md/public-safety/md-code-public-safety-sect-5-133.html.

[27] Md. Public Safety Code § 5-117.1(d), https://codes.findlaw.com/md/public-safety/md-code-public-safety-sect-5-133.html.

[28] Md. Code Reg. 29.03.02.05(C), http://mdrules.elaws.us/comar/29.03.02.05.

[29] Md. Code Reg. 29.03.02.05(C)(1), http://mdrules.elaws.us/comar/29.03.02.05.

[30] Md. Code Reg. 29.03.02.05(C)(2), http://mdrules.elaws.us/comar/29.03.02.05.

[31] Md. Code Reg. 29.03.02.05(C)(3), http://mdrules.elaws.us/comar/29.03.02.05.

[32] Md. Code Reg. 29.03.02.05(C)(4), http://mdrules.elaws.us/comar/29.03.02.05.

[33] Md. Code Reg. 12.04.02.04(B)(1), http://mdrules.elaws.us/comar/12.04.02.04.

[34] Md. Code Reg. 12.04.02.04(B)(3)(a), http://mdrules.elaws.us/comar/12.04.02.04.

[35] Md. Code Reg. 12.04.02.04(B)(3)(b), http://mdrules.elaws.us/comar/12.04.02.04.

[36] Md. Code Reg. 12.04.02.04(B)(3)(a), http://mdrules.elaws.us/comar/12.04.02.04.

[37] Md. Code Reg. 12.04.02.04(B)(5), http://mdrules.elaws.us/comar/12.04.02.04.

[38] Baltimore Police Department, Policy 409 Firearms Regulations 1 (2016), https://www.baltimorepolice.org/sites/default/files/Policies/409_Firearms_Regulations.pdf.

[39] R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-35, http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE11/11-47/11-47-35.HTM.

[40] R.I. Dept of Env’t Management, R.I. Handgun Safety Certification Process 1, http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/bnatres/fishwild/pdf/blue-card-testing-locations.pdf.

[41] R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-15, http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE11/11-47/11-47-15.HTM.

[42] R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-15.3(a), http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE11/11-47/11-47-15.3.HTM.

[43] R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-15.3(a); R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-15.3(c), http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE11/11-47/11-47-15.3.HTM.

[44] Providence Police Department, General Order 310.01 12 (2019), https://www.providenceri.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/310.01-Department-Issued-Authorized-Weapons.pdf.

[45] Providence Police Department, General Order 310.01 10 (2019), https://www.providenceri.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/310.01-Department-Issued-Authorized-Weapons.pdf.

[46] Bureau of Firearms, Cal. Dep’t of Just., Firearm Safety Certificate Study Guide 1 (2020), https://oag.ca.gov/system/files/media/hscsg.pdf.

[47] Cal. Penal Code § 26165(a)(1), https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=PEN&sectionNum=26165.

[48] Cal. Penal Code § 26165(a)(2), https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=PEN&sectionNum=26165.

[49] Cal. Penal Code § 26165(a)(3), https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=PEN&sectionNum=26165.

[50] Cal. Penal Code § 832(a), https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=PEN&sectionNum=832.

[51] Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, Training and Testing Specifications for Learning Domain #35 Firearms/Chemical Agents 1 (2020).

[52] Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, Training and Testing Specifications for Learning Domain #35 Firearms/Chemical Agents 1 (2020).

[53] Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, Training and Testing Specifications for Learning Domain #35 Firearms/Chemical Agents 2 (2020).

[54] Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, Training and Testing Specifications for Learning Domain #35 Firearms/Chemical Agents 3 (2020).

[55] Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, Training and Testing Specifications for Learning Domain #35 Firearms/Chemical Agents 3 (2020).

[56] Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, Training and Testing Specifications for Learning Domain #35 Firearms/Chemical Agents 1 (2020).

[57] Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, Training and Testing Specifications for Learning Domain #35 Firearms/Chemical Agents 6–10 (2020).

[58] Academy Training, City of Los Angeles, https://per.lacity.org/joinlapd/selection.cfm?section=academytraining.