A number of gun rights organizations are opposed to federal legislation that would allow police officers the right to carry concealed weapons from state to state because they believe such a right should extend to everyone.
Angel Shamaya, founder and executive director of KeepAndBearArms.com, a gun rights website, says he respects police officers and understands the dangerous nature of their work often follows them outside their own jurisdictions.
But danger also lurks for civilians no matter where they go, he argues. And furthermore, the legislation is giving preferential treatment to officers over the safety concerns of other constituents.
Specifically, Shamaya and other groups oppose H.R. 218, known as the “Community Protection Act of 2001,” which would “exempt qualified current and former law enforcement officers from state laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed handguns.”
The bill is heavily supported by the National Rifle Association and the Law Enforcement Alliance of America, the latter of which helped craft the legislation and has set up a special website to promote its passage, called CopConcealedCarry.com.
“Considering the many hours of training that sworn law enforcement officers receive and the experience they accumulate on the streets, it’s inconceivable that Congress didn’t pass H.R. 218 years ago when it was first introduced,” said Jim Fotis, LEAA’s executive director. “What plausible argument can anyone give for not allowing these law enforcers the right to carry their firearms outside their jurisdictions when off-duty?
“Just imagine the deterrent to crime if more than 1 million trained and equipped law enforcement professionals – active and retired – were allowed to be armed so they could utilize their skills,” he said.
But Shamaya sees a dangerous precedent and double standard in approving the law.
“Once law enforcement officers are exempted from unconstitutional concealed carry laws, there will be little reason for the vast majority of them to support national concealed carry decriminalization for the people they were hired to serve,” he said, adding that such a law would add to the growing public perception that police officers “are better than citizens.”
He also believes resentment of police officers among civilians – especially those whose states disallow concealed carry – would also rise if the LEAA-sponsored bill passes.
If the bill becomes law, “police officers from 2,000 miles away can come and eat at the same restaurant where you’ve been eating for years, and they can pack heat,” he said. “Not only that, but they might even bust you if the gun on your hip underneath your jacket – for defense against neighborhood thugs who concern you more than your local, unconstitutional laws do – catches their attention.”
Shamaya, who has conducted an extensive study of the issue, said the bill gives police officers exemptions for laws they have to enforce on others.
The debate may be a moot point. A spokesman for the Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland – where H.R. 218 currently is languishing – told WND no action was planned for the measure, mostly because the subcommittee was working on “more important issues” stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks.
Still, even many traditional supporters of laws that strengthen gun rights are not behind H.R. 218.
“H.R. 218 is discriminatory and creates a separate class of citizen,” said Geoff Metcalf, host of WND’s talk radio program and a weekly columnist. “If cops are permitted to carry concealed anywhere, any CCW [concealed carry of weapons license] holder should be permitted to carry anywhere.”
“We’ll support [this bill for police] when they support me being able to do the same thing,” Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, said, noting that many national and local-level police organizations oppose concealed carry efforts.
“We think it’s a very bad idea to say that some Americans are entitled to special privileges,” he said. “Our forefathers fled countries that did things like that. Those people were called the ‘nobility.'”