Fla. official wants retired cops to carry guns


South Florida Sun-Sentinel

FLORIDA — Before Monday's shooting rampage at a Wendy's restaurant in suburban West Palm Beach, County Commissioner Bob Kanjian began inquiring into why more retired police officers from out of state aren't carrying guns.

After seeing the restaurant in shambles from gunfire, Kanjian, the son of a retired police officer, says he's convinced that county funds should be used to help ex-officers from out of state get the necessary background checks so they can pack a weapon wherever they go.

"I can't imagine people not thinking this is a great idea," Kanjian said Tuesday. "[Monday's shootings] are a wonderful example of the kind of scenario where, if there was someone trained and armed in the restaurant, they might have been able to take the shooter out before he had taken a second shot."

Kanjian, who estimated that there may be 2,000 or more ex-officers residing in Palm Beach County, has asked Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw to prepare an estimate of what it would cost the county to conduct state-required background checks of ex-officers who seek weapons permits.

Bradshaw said the estimate will be ready in a few weeks. Though he expressed interest in the initiative, the sheriff said there are concerns associated with allowing retired officers to carry weapons. When an officer is responding to a shooting, the action is "heated and fast, and a lot of things are happening," said Bradshaw. Putting a plainclothes ex-officer with a weapon drawn into the mix, he said, can add to the confusion or worsen the outcome.

In 2004, federal laws were changed, under what was called House Resolution 218, to allow retired officers to carry weapons across state lines so long as they passed annual tests to prove their shooting skills and carried state-issued cards verifying that they had undergone firearms training and had separated from their employment in good standing.

Last year, the Florida Legislature passed a law defining the state's rules. But the state did not provide funding to pay for checking ex-officers' employment history.

Some gun-control groups have previously expressed concerns. Former officers, they noted, have been involved in some high-profile shooting incidents. But locally, advocates for county funding for the permitting procedure include leaders of a new Fraternal Order of Police lodge made up entirely of former New York officers.

Arnold Dansky, vice president of the lodge and a Boynton Beach resident, approached Kanjian with the funding request.

"There are so many incidents where people have gone off [shooting] in schools, malls. And you just never know, there could be an armed retired officer that could be of assistance," Dansky said.

Copyright 2008 South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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