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Confusion surrounds federal gun law

Some agencies slow to allow retired officers to carry concealed weapons


Madison - Former sheriff's deputy Matt Del Fatti considers himself one of the lucky retired law enforcement officers in Wisconsin.

His old employer, the Clark County Sheriff's Department in western Wisconsin, has decided to issue him an identification and let him train to carry a concealed weapon under a new federal law.

"I spent a career in law enforcement and that doesn't just go away after you retire," said Del Fatti, 53, of Greenwood, who retired in 2002 after 28 years on the force.

"The ability to take action if it's necessary stays with you."

Dozens of other Wisconsin police agencies have so far balked at implementing the law, which allows qualified retired police officers and sheriff's deputies to carry firearms even in states such as Wisconsin that have concealed carry bans.

The agencies say they do not want to be held liable for potentially deadly incidents involving their former workers.

The result is a disparate situation in which Del Fatti and retirees who worked at certain agencies can take advantage of the federal law, while many of their counterparts across the state cannot.

Meanwhile, retirees from other states can carry their weapons while in Wisconsin.

The federal law, which took effect in January, allows retired officers who served for more than 15 years to carry a weapon as long as they have identification from their former agency and documents certifying they have met the training standards for the firearm.

The agency or the state must issue those credentials.

A controversy has erupted at the Capitol, where some lawmakers rarely shy away from a gun fight, over how to implement the law.

Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, a Democrat, has for months recommended a change in state law that would set mandatory statewide training standards for retirees and eliminate the disparity.

Sen. Dave Zien (R-Eau Claire) and Republican lawmakers last week held a news conference accusing Lautenschlager of trying to block the law and urging agencies to comply on their own. They said no state law is needed.

In a letter to lawmakers on Friday, Lautenschlager responded that agencies can choose to comply, but many will not until the state relieves them of potential liability.

Police groups sought bill
Police groups and supporters of the Second Amendment had long sought the bill President Bush signed last July.

The law exempts qualified current and former officers from state laws banning the carrying of concealed weapons. Wisconsin is one of a handful of states with a ban.

Police agencies have had little problem implementing the law for current officers, who already must have firearms training.

But John Terrill, a spokesman for the National Association of Police Organizations, which lobbied heavily for the bill, said many states weren't prepared to deal with retirees.

His group, which represents more than 2,000 police unions, is recommending that retired police denied a chance to carry weapons by their former agencies should "contact lawyers to see what their options are."

"Most of the states don't know how to handle this quite yet," he said. "That means they are basically putting on hold any way for retired officers to get their guns."

Michael Weissenberger, president of the Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association, acknowledged "there's a lot of confusion" across the state.

"Sheriffs don't know which direction to go, because there are no guidelines," said Weissenberger, who is the sheriff in La Crosse County.

*FW Note:

Wisconsin doesn't allow "ordinary" people to defend themselves with a CCW.

Now we have a concern that geriatric former members of the elite ruling caste might have to blend in with the peasants and go defenseless.

All together now...Awwwwwwwww... :cry:

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