Governor Cuomo signed into law last week an amendment to the SAFE Act, the stringent gun control legislation passed in January. The amendment exempted "qualified" retired cops from "certain limitations" in the bill: specifically the regulations prohibiting assault weapons and large capacity ammunition.
"Qualified" officers must have retired in good standing after serving for at least 10 years. The amendment was made effective immediately.
Last week, a reporter asked the governor why the retired law enforcement officers should receive an exemption, to which he replied: "Because they are retired law enforcement officers. That's why... They had different training, they have a different experience. I mean they are different, right?"
The governor's office did not have an answer to the question of what the practical purpose of the amendment is.
The legislation authorizes retired cops to possess large capacity ammunition feeding devices and assault weapons "issued to or purchased by such officer in the course of his or her official duties, provided he or she has been qualified by their agency on the use of the weapon utilizing such feeding devices [or assault weapons] within 12 months of retirement."
The retirees must re-qualify for the permit every three years, and the weapon must be registered within 60 days of retirement.
The legislation states that the amendment is justified by "some concerns" expressed by retired law enforcement officers, but did not elaborate on or explain what those concerns are.
Several police unions lobbied for the measure. The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association's president, Pat Lynch, said the PBA was gratified that their lobbying efforts were successful.
In answer to what the practical reason for the amendment was, PBA spokesperson Joe Mancini said retired cops "were not supposed to be the targets of these controls and it was an oversight not to exempt them in the first place."
President of the Sergeants Benevolent Association Ed Mullins was more specific about the practical benefits of the amendment, emphasizing in particular the fact that retired law enforcement are often employed as private security for large corporations, businesses, banks and even in schools.
He also said the NYPD relies on its retired officers for backup should emergencies arise.
"The NYPD utilizes retirees as almost as emergency contingent of reserve people," Mullins explained, asserting that the legislation will be important "should there be another 9/11."
"We don't have a problem of law enforcement going out and shooting up schools and buses," he added. "We're generally the people who come to the scene."
Mullins said the important service of off-duty and retired cops can be seen daily.
"All the time, everyday it happens," Mullins said. "It happens all the time, you have off-duty officers coming to the rescue, you have retired officers coming to the rescue."
Off-duty cops are never considered completely off-duty, Mullins pointed out. Off-duty officers who witness a crime or a person in need of assistance are obligated to respond and can be censured if they neglect to do so. Mullins said that mentality and sense of responsibility to protect stays with officers even after they retire.
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