Officers in Florida are now allowed to carry them anywhere across the country.
Florida cops and retired law-enforcement officers can now carry guns nationwide.
The final step took effect two months ago.
Until then, many states refused to let them travel armed to investigate crimes or when on vacation.
"Probably three years ago, we flew into New York City to talk to a guy in jail there," said Detective Mark Hussey of the Orange County Sheriff's Office homicide squad. "They had New York City detectives meet us at the airport and shadow us the whole time we were there because you're not supposed to carry concealed firearms in the state of New York."
Known as H.R. 218, the federal Law Enforcement Safety Act of 2004 covers Florida's 46,000 certified officers. The law set a national shooting standard for the first time so cops who passed would be accepted by all 50 states as knowing how to shoot.
While the law passed in 2004, it didn't take effect in the Sunshine State until July 2007. The reason: Florida didn't have a state shooting standard for cops until two years ago.
"Frankly, H.R. 218 brought the issue back up to the state Training and Standards Commission about whether there ought to be statewide standards," said Michael Ramage, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's general counsel. "They did impose them July 1 of 2006."
While some agencies began certifying their own retirees last year, FDLE formally established the process for every part of the state in March, records show.
So far, 64 retired Orange County deputies and about 20 retired Orlando police officers have been issued the national permits. Both agencies said they will only certify their own retirees, so retired cops who worked elsewhere must find a state-certified instructor to test them.
To get the H.R. 218 permit, police must score 80 percent or higher every year on a shooting test that other officers only need to pass once every two years to meet state standards. Retirees must meet the same standard. Different styles of shooting are tested, including a quick draw and firing two shots within 4 seconds.
The federal test sets police far above Florida's 500,000 Concealed Weapon Permit holders, who can travel armed to 32 states without proving they can hit a target. Those, including Texas, have reciprocity agreements that let their permit holders travel armed in Florida.
The head of Central Florida's largest police union supports the law. "Whether we want to admit it or not, there's domestic terrorism out there," said John Park, president of the Central Florida Police Benevolent Association, citing violent crime. "Better safe than sorry."
Park, an Orange County deputy representing more than 600 PBA members, said the law legalizes what had been a common practice for many law-enforcement officers to travel armed regardless of local laws.
"It is common sense and best for America if current and retired LEOs [law-enforcement officers] have the tool of their trade readily available to serve and protect themselves and others," he wrote in an e-mail. "H.R. 218 provides clear, uniform nationwide rules to replace the varying, confusing and uncertain local laws regarding LEOs right to carry their firearms, on or off duty."
While the state concealed-weapon permit is good for five years compared with the national permit's one year, FDLE's Ramage thinks the nearly unrestricted right to carry nationwide makes passing the yearly test worthwhile.
"If I were a qualified, retired law-enforcement officer, I'd probably want to qualify under H.R. 218, so I'd basically have one-size-fits-all for all 50 states," said Ramage, who cautioned that an H.R. 218 permit does not give officers or retirees any legal powers when they travel out of state.