Gun Groups File Appeal Against California’s Exemptions for Retired Law Enforcement Officers

Groups say special exceptions to strict gun laws violate the Fourteenth Amendment

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In federal circuit court on Wednesday, a coalition of gun-rights groups filed its opening brief in a suit against exemptions for retired law enforcement officers under California's strict gun laws.

The Calguns Foundation, Firearms Policy Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, Madison Society Foundation, and 11 individuals signed on to the suit, which District Judge Beverly Reid O'Connell, an Obama appointee, ruled against in August. They're now taking their case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming the exemptions are a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause. The group says the exemptions for retired law enforcement personnel are unfair and unconstitutional.

The groups cite the recent passage of SB707, which banned those with gun-carry permits from bringing a gun on any school property but left in place exemptions for retired law enforcement, as an example of special protections they believe are wrong.

"The case is about a politically powerful group of civilians receiving special rights that other, similarly situated civilians do not receive," Craig DeLuz, a spokesperson for Firearms Policy Coalition and one of the plaintiffs in the case, told the Washington Free Beacon. "Politically powerful police unions opposed SB707 until their retired members were exempted from the measure. Then, they not only removed their opposition, they supported it. Even the author of the measure admitted that the only reason she exempted retired law enforcement is because she could not get the law passed with their opposition.

"That is a clear violation of the Equal Protection Act, as retired law enforcement officers have not more police powers than everyday citizens."

The exemption included in that law applied to any retired law enforcement officer regardless of whether or not their former jobs required the use of a firearm.

"For instance, retired Internal Revenue Service agents and other federal agents are exempt simply by virtue of retiring in California or working for the agency in California for more than a year," Bradley Benbrook, the group's attorney, wrote in the court brief.

DeLuz, who opposes SB707's expansion of gun-free zones, said he does not believe the exemption granted to retired law enforcement is based on the group’s level of training.

"The exemption makes even less sense when one considers that there are higher standards for civilians to qualify for a CCW than for most retired law enforcement," he said. "Look at the training standards for peace officer training, I believe you will find that there are not training requirements upon their graduation from the academy. And, in fact, the retired law enforcement exemption includes anyone who has worked for a law enforcement agency, whether they carried a firearm as a part of their duties prior to retirement."

A hearing date for the case has not yet been announced.

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Stephen Gutowski is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He founded his own site as a junior in college and has been writing about news and politics since that time. He spent 4 years with the Media Research Center and was most recently with the Capitol City Project. His email address is Gutowski@FreeBeacon.com. His twitter handle is @StephenGutowski.