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SUPPORT H.R. 218

The Community Protection Act Will Allow Police Officers To Carry Weapons From State-To-State

H.R. 218, the "Community Protection Act," is gaining momentum in Congress, having passed out of the House Judiciary Committee with a unanimous voice
vote, Wednesday, August 5, 1998.

Once enacted, this bill would allow qualified current and retired law enforcement officers in good standing to carry concealed weapons anywhere in the country, exempt from state concealed-carry prohibitions. Now the bill awaits a vote on the House floor, which will probably happen when Congress reconvenes after its August recess.

"After all these years of work with Representatives Randy Cunningham (R-Calif.) and Bill McCollum (R-Fla.), the original sponsors of this life-saving legislation, it is gratifying to see the Community Protection Act clear this critical hurdle," said James J. Fotis, executive director for the Law Enforcement Alliance of America (LEAA). "We are also pleased that 50 law enforcement groups from around the country, including the National Fraternal Order of Police, have endorsed the bill," Fotis added.

"A cop may go off the clock at the end of his shift, but he never truly goes off duty. He always responds to criminal behavior whether he's wearing a badge or not. H.R. 218 simply gives law enforcement officers the tools they need to protect innocent citizens as well as themselves when intervening in dangerous situations," said Fotis, a highly decorated Long Island (N.Y.) police officer.

"It is outrageous to leave our law enforcement officers and their families vulnerable to the attacks of violent and vindictive criminals whom they have previously arrested," Fotis said, "and equally outrageous is to deny the American people the potentially life-saving assistance of off-duty and retired officers."

H.R. 218 has had some interesting developments in the past few months. The Community Protection Act, originally drafted in 1992 by LEAA, was re-introduced by Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) last year. But just this summer Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Crime Subcommittee, led the effort to get the legislation approved by his subcommittee vote after drafting a strong amendment.

With a 7-2 vote in the subcommittee, H.R. 218 received the faithful support of Reps. McCollum, Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Howard Coble (R-N.C.), George Gekas (R-Penn.), Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.), and LEAA's 1997 "Freedom Award" winner Bob Barr (R-Ga.).

However, some of the Democratic subcommittee members, namely Reps. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) and Marty Meehan (D-Mass.), turned their backs on law enforcement's right to personal protection and cast their "no" votes.

Those "no" votes revealed the shallowness of some politicians' oft-repeated public claims to support law enforcement, like Rep. Schumer who undoubtedly had influence over the opposition.

Objections to H.R. 218 center in the faction of Congress (led by Rep. Schumer in the House and Sen. Diane Feinstein in the Senate) that refuses to acknowledge any non-criminal use of firearms. Some are misguided; some are avowed ideologues who embrace the expansion of criminals' rights while narrowing those of police and responsible citizens.

Combined with their ingrained "let the government do it" attitude, their political biases appear to prompt them to recoil at the concept of memorializing via federal statute the idea -- much less the reality -- that handguns afford criminal violence.

As a result, Rep. McCollum was subjected to a barrage of insults during the subcommittee meeting, but to no avail. Regardless, H.R. 218 passed out of the subcommittee. The good news for all CCW permit holders is that H.R. 218 is now the vehicle for civilian reciprocity.

This newest version of H.R. 218 is particularly galling to Rep. Schumer and friends, because it contains language from the bill introduced by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) that also affords reciprocity to those citizens with state-issued concealed-carry permits to take their firearms from state to state.

While the McCollum amendment does not go as far as the separate legislation proposed by Rep. Stearns (H.R. 339) to create a nationwide concealed-carry reciprocity, the approval of H.R. 218 is a step in that direction, and will open the door to reciprocity in about 60 percent of the states.

For years, LEAA combed Congressional corridors seeking co-sponsors and asked the LEAA members to write and call Congress regarding H.R. 218. That effort is finally coming to fruition.

Currently H.R. 218 has 112 co-sponsors, and the list of law enforcement organizations supporting this bill now exceeds 50.

If this measure fails to progress through the 105th Congress before adjournment this fall, then efforts would have to start all over from the scratch in January with the new Congress.

Obviously, pressure from law enforcement officers will play an important role in the outcome of the vote before the full House. August is prime time for police officers to contact lawmakers while they are home during their Congressional recess. The best way to get in touch with your representative or senator is to get the phone number of their hometown office from the local phone book (in the blue pages under U.S. Government) or call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be connected to their Washington offices. Additionally,
constituents can send messages through the web site
http://congress.org

LEAA was established to provide a voice for police officers and concerned citizens, and now consists of approximately 65,000 members and supporters. Additionally, LEAA strives for real criminal justice and supports victims' rights over criminals' rights. In addition to H.R. 218, the organization has supported legislation like the Police Officer's Bill of Rights; the Armor Vest Tax Credit; HIV Protection for Correctional Officers; the Police Officer's Disarming Bill; Prisoner's Weight Ban and Martial Arts Bill.

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