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I am French, so the US regulations about who can hold a gun where are complicated for me, I apologise if the question is obvious in the US.

YouTube brought me to a 2019 case (the TV News version and the bodycam version with more details) where a policeman in uniform (and with his service weapon) entered an IRS building for personal business.

He was then stopped and "chased" by a security guard because he did not want to remove his service weapon. The policeman was being asked whether he was on official duties (in which case I assume that the service weapon is fine, having all the right paperwork or situation), he said no and wanted to leave.

He was stopped by the security guard and finally, it is all the security guard's fault.

My questions:

  • Can a policeman enter a no-gun building with his service weapon while on duty, but for personal business?
  • Can a policeman enter a no-gun building with his service weapon while not on duty (again, for personal business)?
  • Can a security guard stop someone who entered the no-gun building by all reasonable means awaiting for police to intervene? (the rationale being that someone broke the law)
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    is the policeman in his official duty? Is the building a prison/jail or court? Is the building federal or state?... there are many factors that say it is ok or not.
    – Trish
    Jan 31, 2021 at 15:36
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    @Trish: I mentioned the off-duty part, I am open to other cases (the specific case I mentioned was for an IRA building)
    – WoJ
    Jan 31, 2021 at 15:54
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    The laws vary widely across states and depending on what kind of prohibition is in effect (federal, state, private). A police officer might theoretically be prevented (under normal circumstances) from entering a place armed while on duty while private citizens are permitted to carry weapons. Feb 1, 2021 at 3:12
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    The US is far from homogenous in this respect. There are different laws in different states, counties, and municipalities regarding where you can and can't carry a gun, and those laws may differ between law enforcement officers (whether on or off duty) and private citizens. Feb 1, 2021 at 20:30
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    A note for future reference, the term you are looking for here to describe a firearm issued to a law enforcement officer (or soldier) to be used during their normal duties is ‘service weapon’. Feb 2, 2021 at 12:53

3 Answers 3

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A follow-up story appears on the local ABC television station, indicating that the security guard pleaded no contest to simple assault. The fact that the security guard was convicted of a misdemeanor does not necessarily indicate that the deputy was allowed to have the gun in the IRS office, only that the security guard's response to the situation was not acceptable.

I am not able to locate any firearm policy for the Lucas County, Ohio' sheriff's office. Many US law enforcement agencies have a policy that their officers carry their firearms essentially at all times, so that they can respond to unexpected incidents even when they are off duty.

At the same time, owners of private property ordinarily can admit people, or not, for any reason at all. Unless the officer has an official reason for entering a property when the owner doesn't want the officer there, the officer isn't allowed to enter. It appears that in this case the officer had no official law-enforcement reason to enter.

But this case doesn't involve private property, it involves federal property. A digest from the FBI states "Federal laws or regulations are not superseded by LEOSA. Qualified officers may not carry concealed weapons onto aircraft under the act. They also cannot carry firearms into federal buildings or onto federal property."

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    That seems easy for officers to innocently make a mistake with. Imagine if cell phones were suddenly outlawed in federal buildings or on federal property. (Let's pretend it's to prevent espionage or something like that - it's just a hypothetical.) . . . Now imagine everyone trying to remember to always leave their cell phones in their car. There would probably be quite a few innocent mistakes.
    – user8913
    Feb 2, 2021 at 6:40
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    @Panzercrisis Except it is very well established that nobody can stroll into federal facilities/jails/courthouses etc... with a gun, whether or not they are a cop and whether or not they are on duty. Many such places have lock boxes for this reason. It's definitely the cops job to know when and where they are allowed to carry a firearm. Feb 2, 2021 at 7:01
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    @Panzercrisis Cellphones are illegal to be carried into most federal court buildings for normal visitors and generally illegal to be used inside courtrooms unless the judge permits it for the instance - otherwise it's contempt of court.
    – Trish
    Feb 2, 2021 at 10:28
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    @Panzercrisis Lmao. When you carry a firearm and are a representative of the state's use of force, you don't get to "innocently make a mistake" with regard to where you can carry guns. Feb 2, 2021 at 16:30
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    @AzorAhai While they certainly should know the applicable rules, it's silly to think that innocent mistakes won't happen from time to time. Don't underestimate force of habit. When you're used to carrying something with you all of the time, it's easy to forget to leave it behind when you're going somewhere where it isn't allowed, even if you know it isn't allowed there. Ask anyone who regularly carries a pocket knife. I've inadvertently tested TSA's knife detection prowess a few times for that reason. A couple of times I didn't even notice until I emptied my pocket at my destination.
    – reirab
    Feb 2, 2021 at 17:40
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The owner of a property can prohibit people from entering the property. If they want to make entering the property contingent on not carrying a gun, they are generally free to do so. There are, however, cases where a police officer doesn't need permission from the owner of a building to enter, and in such a case they probably will be allowed to carry a gun, absent further facts. Examples of such cases are executing a search or arrest warrant and exigent circumstances (for instance, if they see through a window that someone is being beaten).

Whether they are "on official business" is not dispositive; if a cop comes to your house and asks to interview you regarding a crime, that is official business, but it doesn't mean that they have the right to enter your house without your permission.

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    The owner's right to restrict entry to unarmed persons is not absolute. Case in point: Fairfax County attempted to restrict entry to libraries, etc. and was overridden by Virginia state law. Feb 1, 2021 at 16:30
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    @PhilFreedenberg there are a number of rights that a private owner has that may not be available to a state or local government. For example, the US right to gather in a public place for the purpose of peaceful protest does not extend to private property. Thus the owner of a shopping mall can (in most states) deny access to peaceful protesters, while a public library could not. (Caveats apply both ways.) Feb 1, 2021 at 18:25
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    Thank you for your answer, but the question is really around policemen that are getting into the buildings for personal business
    – WoJ
    Feb 1, 2021 at 19:18
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The officer can enter anyplace within the authorizing jurisdiction where duty requires such entry, regardless of the wishes or policies of the owner.

But notice there are two caveats in the above: duty and jurisdiction. Federal property is not NECESSARILY within their jurisdiction (it may or may not, depending on various factors). And they have a duty to enter, not just be working.

This bare minimum should be universal, not just in that state, but across the world. In other countries, it may be that officers are raised above regular citizens and can do things that regular citizens cannot, but if the two criteria above are met, they will be able go where they need to.

In this particular case, the officer wasn’t there as a police officer he was there as a taxpayer, and as such not authorized to bring his service weapon onto the premises. Which is at least implied by the fact that he attempted to leave. The security guards detainment was illegal, and he is extremely luck not be charged with kidnapping.

So, the answer to all three of your questions is “No, but”.

Q1: many “no weapons” buildings are designated as such by the same   
    jurisdiction that employees the officer, and will make explicit  
    exceptions for their own officers when on duty.  This would not 
    apply to private buildings or buildings controlled by other  
    jurisdictions. 

Q2: it’s not impossible that a jurisdiction would make an exception  
    for their own off-duty officers, but it would be unusual. Again,  
    any such exception would only apply to buildings under their  
    control. They couldn’t make it apply to private buildings or  
    buildings under different jurisdictions.
Q3: there is such a thing as citizens arrest, but it would need to be  
    explicit, not just “you can’t leave”.

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