Rightly or wrongly, the Los Angeles Police Department is the owner of a, shall we say, somewhat less than sterling reputation when it comes to respecting the civil liberties of those it serves. The department did nothing to improve this distinction last week, when its union (the Los Angeles Police Protective League--LAPPL) sought a carve-out that would protect current and retired officers from onerous new firearms storage requirements that the L.A. City Council is intent on enacting, while leaving civilians to suffer.
The proposed L.A. law is modelled after San Francisco’s handgun storage law, which requires gun owners to lock up or disable any handgun in their home that they are not currently carrying. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme court refused to hear a case challenging San Francisco’s ordinance as a violation of the Second Amendment. The court’s refusal was met with a sharp rebuke from justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, who issued a rare dissent of the court’s decision not to grant cert. Notably, Scalia penned the Heller decision that struck down the District of Columbia’s unconstitutional firearm storage law. The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case has emboldened other localities to pursue similar unlawful ordinances.
As reported in the Los Angeles Times, LAPPL Director Peter Repovich sent a letter to city lawmakers outlining the case for an LAPD exemption. In the letter, Repovich claims that the city’s current and retired police have undergone special training in handling firearms, and goes on to state “To protect themselves and society … you have to give them the ability to respond quickly.”
Of course, Repovich’s comment about police needing to respond quickly to potential threats is just as relevant to civilian firearm owners that face criminal violence. Justice Thomas addressed this concern at length in his dissent from the Court’s decision not to review San Francisco’s law. Thomas notes, “The law thus burdens their right to self-defense at the times they are most vulnerable—when they are sleeping, bathing, changing clothes, or otherwise indisposed. There is consequently no question that San Francisco’s law burdens the core of the Second Amendment right.” Later on, Thomas describes the personal circumstances of some of the petitioners challenging the law. Making clear the dangers the storage law poses to civilians, he describes one petitioner’s situation, writing, “she is forced to store her gun in a code-operated safe and, in the event of an emergency, would need to get to that safe, remember her code under stress, and correctly enter it before she could retrieve her gun and be in a position to defend herself. If she erroneously entered the number due to stress, the safe would impose a delay before she could try again.”
Moreover, the city council’s reasoning for the storage legislation is seriously flawed. Proponents of the ordinance claim that it will help to prevent young children from accidentally harming themselves with unattended firearms. In their book, Armed: New Perspectives on Gun Control, researchers Gary Kleck and Don B. Kates challenge the efficacy of such restrictions, noting, “gun accidents among preadolescent children, which are likely to involve unauthorized users, are extremely rare.” Additionally, our NRA-ILA Fact Sheet on firearms safety details the infrequency of these unfortunate incidents, and shows how the number of these incidents has been reduced over time without resorting to wide-scale firearm storage mandates. Further, those unconvinced by the work of Kleck and Kates, or NRA-ILA should take note of an op-ed written by University of Chicago Professor of Economics Steven D. Levitt. In the 2001 piece for the Chicago Sun-Times, the professor stated, “What’s more dangerous: a swimming pool or a gun? When it comes to children, there is no comparison: a swimming pool is 100 times more deadly.” One would think this important insight would have particular resonance in sunny Southern California.
Another proposed change to the L.A. storage legislation would, in addition to exempting law enforcement officials, exempt concealed carry permit holders from the storage requirements. California is a may-issue carry state, meaning that potential permit holders are frequently subject to severe scrutiny and the whims of their local issuing authority, which often makes acquiring a carry permit difficult. Despite this, the exemption has received significant backlash from proponents of the storage law, like Councilman Paul Krekorian, who claimed it would “It would destroy a reasonable and measured policy.”
The LAPD union’s actions are just the latest in a long-standing tradition of law enforcement entities seeking carve-outs to legislation limiting the gun rights of the general populous, rather than steadfastly opposing such laws in their entirety. While the NRA supports giving current and retired officers the right to defend themselves and their families at home, arrangements like the one sought by the LAPPL give the impression that such rights are more precious than those of the average citizen. This, of course, is not the case, and NRA will continue to fight to protect the rights of all law-abiding members of society regardless of law enforcement experience. We hope that someday law enforcement officials from coast to coast will join us in this pursuit.