Sometimes the most simple bills elicit the strangest floor debates in the California Legislature. A very simple bill was either politicized in the debate or, those doing the challenging were ignorant of current state law.
In the State Senate Thursday, Senator Richard Roth (D-Riverside), introduced AB 603 by Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore), which would allow retired peace officers of California State University to carry a concealed weapon, just as peace officers of the University of California Police Department are allowed, along with all other retired peace officers in California. The bill is merely bringing parity to all retired police officers. (Beginning at 58:35, Senate Floor Session, June 27)
“While California State University officers can be considered ‘honorably retired’ when receiving disability retirement pay, several retired University of California peace officers have been denied this title and therefore have been treated differently due to a small difference in terminology,” bill analysis says.
Despite the simple verbiage fix, Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson objected to the bill:
“As many of us have read with horror, about two weeks ago at a Costco in Corona, an off duty police officer carrying a firearm, shot a fellow, injuring his family. At a time when we need to talk about de-escalating situations, why in the world are we adding more people to the list of people carrying concealed firearms? And in an instance like this where de-escalation most likely could have saved lives, here he was with a loaded weapon in hand, which, and if he chose to use, ended the life of one individual, outside a Costco, for Pete’s sake. This kind of attitude where we reach for the gun first, and if you have a gun available, the last thing these folks are going to try to do is walk away from a dangerous situation. I find no justification to allow for and encourage concealed an increase of these concealed weapons.”
Sen. Bob Archuletta, (D-Pico Rivera), who is a retired Army paratrooper, and retired police officer, attempted to correct Jackson. “The men and women I served with honorably and distinctively…. all men and women in law enforcement, it is a continuation of their duty to carry the firearm and badge after retirement.”
Sen. Republican Leader Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), also former military, commented: “It’s obviously a Constitutional right to carry firearms. But these people have the training and knowledge needed to carry a firearm.”
Sen. Jackson wasn’t having any of it:
“I’m not talking about on-duty police officers – I’m talking about retired, off-duty police after they’ve retired, carrying weapons with them wherever they go. We have enough concealed weapons. The use of firearms escalates situations unnecessarily, at this Costco, at other places. And also when you use firearms, the risk associated with it, at the Borderline, for instance. It was indeed a CHP bullet that killed the Ventura County Sheriff. We have to ask ourselves isn’t there a better way?’ And certainly to expand this to off duty, retired officers, … do we really want to see more firearms in public places. And if we do, we are going to see more and more instances like this in that Costco, and I for one don’t believe the 2nd Amendment encourages o permits that. We need to start de-escalating all the hostilities we are seeing in this world. And that is why I oppose this bill.”
Sen. Kathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) said she was supporting the bill and added, “our police officers are exposed to a higher level of violence than ever.” Galgiani said her godfather, a retired police officer, was brutally stabbed and murdered by someone he put away.
“I just don’t think that someone who has served the public and public safety and on a college campus, just because they have retired doesn’t diminish their ability to have a firearm,” said Sen. Grove. “We are trained when we apply for a CCW is to retreat when you can – one of the first things we are trained.”
Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) asked if there is anything in the bill requiring ongoing certification or mental health evaluations, “because as people get older, they deal with dementia and physical conditions.”
Sen. Roth correctly answered that because it is a California concealed carry permit, the individuals are required to fulfill the same requirements as anyone else with a concealed carry permit.
Sen. Archuletta confirmed that in order to maintain a CCW permit, the holder may be re-certified every year, and actually go into the police/sheriff station and prove they can handle it. And, only those retired in good physical health are issued CCW permits.
Despite this already being state law, Sen. Monning asked if that is explicit in the bill.
A frustrated Sen. Roth said the bill is only a semantics correction bringing retired California State University police into line with every other law enforcement agency in the state.
Sen. Roth delivered a closing statement, which addressed the attempt to politicize the bill:
“I have the utmost respect for my colleague from Santa Barbara, but I would note that the Costco and the individuals involved in that shooting, are in my district. They are my constituents. I am acutely aware of the situation that occurred right down the road. Second, as attorneys, we are trained to seek out the facts and make sure we have them before we express opinions or draw conclusions. And the last time I checked with that situation, the report of investigation has not issued. We do not know the circumstances under which that peace officer drew his weapon and fired, whether he was forced to fire. The one thing we do know, is that peace officer was holding his young child, his young son at the time. So as I said, this is a bill to correct a technical deficiency to put university peace officers on par with every other peace officer in the state of California when they retire.”
AB 603 passed the Senate 30-2, with Sen. Jackson and Sen. Lena Gonzalez voting no.
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