Gun groups blast 'discriminatory' bill  

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WEAPONS OF CHOICE
Gun groups blast 'discriminatory' bill
Legislation would allow police, not citizens, concealed carry

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Posted: August 1, 2002
1:00 a.m. Eastern


By Jon Dougherty
© 2002 WorldNetDaily.com

Gun rights organizations say legislation under consideration in the Senate that would allow active and retired police officers to carry a gun out of their jurisdictions – even across state lines – discriminates against ordinary Americans, many of whom are forbidden from carrying a gun even locally.

The bill under consideration is called the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (S-2480) and was authored by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

According to a statement from his office, the bill would "permit current and retired federal, state and local law enforcement officers to carry their firearms to be prepared to assist in dangerous situations."

"Off-duty and retired officers should be permitted to carry their firearms across state and other jurisdictional lines, at no cost to taxpayers, in order better to serve and protect our communities," Leahy said at a hearing on the measure July 23.

"Our bill would permit qualified law enforcement officers and qualified retired law enforcement officers across the nation to carry concealed firearms in most situations," he said. "It also preserves, however, any state law that permits restricting a concealed firearm on private property and preserves any state law that restricts the possession of a firearm on state or local government property."

The Connecticut Democrat explained that under the provisions contained in his bill, for a cop to qualify, he or she "must be authorized to use a firearm by the law enforcement agency" where they work, "be in good standing with that agency, and meet any standards established by that agency to regularly qualify to use a firearm."

Retired officers, meanwhile, "must have retired in good standing, been employed at least five years as a law enforcement officer unless forced to retire due to a service-related injury, have a non-forfeitable right to benefits under the law enforcement agency's retirement plan, and annually complete a state-approved firearms training course," he said.

Gun rights groups say laws that allow only federal agents and police officers the right to carry a weapon virtually anywhere in the U.S. while denying that same right to most Americans create a special "protected class" of citizen and is essentially unconstitutional.

"We would like to support [Leahy's] bill as soon as it's amended so that everybody else would have the same legal ability to carry," Larry Pratt, head of Gun Owners of America, or GOA, said.

Leahy's bill "offers further entitlements to police officers" over the rights of citizens, Pratt said. And while GOA supports the work of police, he said the bill "gives officers a special perk that, constitutionally, belongs to everybody."

Angel Shamaya, founder of Keep and Bear Arms, a gun rights news and information website, said he was able to assemble "the largest coalition of opposition" to an earlier House version of a similar bill "by gun rights groups ever."

Calling such bills "evil and destructive," Shamaya said that after compiling his organization's "cops only concealed carry" documentation, he concluded that he would rather police "support decriminalization for the average person to carry" concealed weapons.

He said if cops can't support citizen concealed carry, "it's unrealistic" for police to expect the citizenry to support concealed carry for officers outside their own jurisdiction.

Gun rights groups also say the support of Leahy's bill offered by some lawmakers and national police groups is hypocritical because often they support stricter gun control measures for much of the public.

For example, Pratt said, the national "Fraternal Order of Police, which supports [Leahy's legislation], does not want you and me to be able to carry" a concealed weapon.

When asked if the bill would make police a "special protected class," David Carle, a spokesman for Leahy, refused to answer directly. "Police officers already use armaments for their work," he said, then referred WND to the hearing statements of his boss.

Carle also did not address a question regarding concerns by some national police organizations that officers who may have to use their weapons outside of their jurisdictions could face liability problems.

Naomi Seligman, a spokeswoman for the Violence Policy Center, a noted gun control group, refused to even discuss Leahy's bill with WorldNetDaily.

"I don't want to talk with you," she said.

But William Johnson, a former Miami prosecutor who is currently the executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, says his group not only supports the Leahy bill, but would back similar legislation for regular citizens.

"If a citizen is already licensed, has passed the appropriate background check to make sure they're not a felon, and has been trained, we wouldn't object," Johnson said.
 

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