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HR 218, A Trojan Horse
We normally do not use savvysurvivor as a forum for political content but there is a growing issue within the survivalist community surrounding proposed legislation in the US that would authorize any active or retired law enforcement officer the right to carry a concealed firearm in any state, regardless of the local laws or jurisdiction. HR 218 is being hailed as a stepping stone to a more universally accepted reciprocity of weapon permits throughout the USA.
Under most current law. Concealed carry permits are only valid in the states they are issued in and under some circumstances, in states that have reciprocity agreements for honoring each other's permits. Generally law enforcement personnel have been authorized to carry weapons within their own jurisdictions when off duty and there is a long standing "professional courtesy" exemption for law enforcement officers who are traveling outside of their jurisdiction. The entitlement to carry a concealed handgun has also been enjoyed by retired law enforcement officers but several states and jurisdictions have recently been limiting and restricting it.
The general argument in favor of authorizing weapons for off duty law enforcement personnel is that they are commonly the targets of vendettas by criminals who they must contend with in the normal course of their duties. This can include those who seek revenge for arrests and shootings by police officers. In many cases, the officer who is the victim of such revenge is not even the person who provoked the attack. The reality is that law enforcement officers are much less likely to be the targets of criminal attack than persons from other walks of life.
Recent changes in law administration and public spectacles of police brutality have greatly reduced the level of professional privilege that law officers enjoy outside of their duties. Regardless of the level of training an officer may have, no law enforcement officer is expected to know all of the laws relevant to the use of deadly force in every area he or she might be while off duty.
Supporters of HR218 say that it is a stepping stone to universal reciprocity of concealed weapon permits. They also contend that the net result of HR 218 is more officers armed and ready to protect the public while off duty. What we are told by Republican proponents is this will be a stepping stone to more universal gun rights under future law.
We feel that HR 218 is the wrong step in the wrong direction and only brings about a double standard of law based solely on employment status. Being a law enforcement officer and being qualified to carry a firearm is simply not mutually inclusive. Unlike driver licensing standards, law enforcement and even concealed carry standards vary greatly from state to state. While we support the moral right of people, including off duty police officers, to be armed for self protection, we do not support giving people widespread authority to live above the laws that others must live under.
HR218 is a proposal about double standards, privilege and the removal of local authority in legal standards. This we do not support. If off duty law officers wish to carry weapons outside of their jurisdictions, they should follow the same legal standards as any other people with equal need and qualifications. If they break laws in this regard, they should be prepared to deal with it the same as any other citizen.
Update July 2004
It looks like the cop groupie lobbyists have finally gotten what they are looking for in the form of a rider to other laws that were passed by congress and the senate recently and will most likely be signed by the President. Most of HR218 made it through intact and is set to give all current and most former law enforcement officers the blanket right to carry weapons in just about any jurisdiction in the United States, regardless of any local or even regional competency requirements. Furthermore, there is no clear distinction between what qualifies a "retired" (even those retired early from law enforcement for stress and psychological problems) or what standards (if any) that retired law enforcement personnel might have to meet to retain their privilege of carrying any weapons they want, just about any place they want. While the rest of us might normally have to at least meet basic health standards to be eligible for a driver's license when we reach far into retirement, be rest assured, the streets are safer because retired cops don't. That is if you are also interested in buying time shares in the Brooklyn Bridge.
The new law also makes no distinction at all where public liability for an individual officer's actions begins or ends. Many police agencies require their officers to be armed at all times, while others restrict their offers from being armed when outside their own states or jurisdictions. This is in large part because of various insurance and liability situations. You usually have a city or county carrying individual officers on their general liability policies, but that sometimes and sometimes does not extend to retired personnel. Are the taxpayers still going to be liable for their actions years after they retire? Will officers later found at fault in falsely convicting people of felony crimes still enjoy their privilege of carrying guns anywhere they want?
The private security and bodyguard industry have also been a magnet for retired law enforcement, often bringing their years of streetwise experience to be a great asset in the security business, yet a great many simply use their status and privilege to carry weapons as an entry into unfair and dishonest business and employment competition against better qualified firms and individuals who have made considerable investment in specialized training and education to become qualified to offer armed protection services under much more stringent standards than that which is offered as an adjunct to other training at police academies.
The solution to this situation remains, as I have stressed in numerous postings on several internet forums, in a federally standardized licensing system for concealed carry within the United States. If law enforcement agencies wish to apply for such permits on behalf of current and retired personnel, then they may do so, under the same exact qualification standards as everyone else. Likewise, if a private citizen wishes to apply for a permit under the federal system, he or she should meet the same qualifications as those minimum qualifications accepted for law enforcement personnel under the same system. No political favoritism, no intangible character judgments on the basis of intangible criteria, no inconsistent or irrational restrictions on the permits. This licensing should be based on consistent and objective background checks, written examinations, and competency testing - not simply status of employment or former employment.
As it is, we find it sadly ironic that the only people in this country who have been given any real recognition of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms are the very same people who seem to work so hard to restrict it for everyone else.