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Police union wants more exemptions from L.A. proposal to lock up handguns

Los Angeles lawmakers have been mulling new rules that would require residents to lock up their handguns or disable them with a trigger lock when they are not being used.

But the plan, championed by Councilman Paul Krekorian as a way to spare children from deadly accidents, spurred opposition from the city police officers' union, which argues that current and former officers shouldn't be held to those rules.

The proposed rules would exempt active-duty and reserve officers, but the Los Angeles Police Protective League argued that retired officers should be excluded as well, warning of possible dangers to former officers and their families.

In a letter to city lawmakers, the union argued that current and former officers needed quick access to guns for protection, citing the armed rampage by ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner as an example of police and their families being targeted. Retired officers have gone through extensive training on controlling their weapons, union officials said.

“To protect themselves and society … you have to give them the ability to respond quickly,”  league director Peter Repovich said.

Krekorian aides warned against changing the wording of the rules, which are modeled on a San Francisco ordinance that withstood a legal challenge from the National Rifle Assn. At a Friday hearing, Councilman Mitch Englander suggested another possible amendment: Lifting the storage requirements for those with a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Those permits can be granted to judges, current and retired officers and other applicants approved by local law enforcement officials. Englander, who is a reserve officer, said getting that permit involves an “extensive background search” and mandatory training.

Councilman Joe Buscaino, a former L.A. police officer, backed that proposal, saying retired officers could be targeted for investigations they had undertaken in the past.

“Anyone who wears a badge – both present and in the past – are police officers … and I’m just looking at their personal safety,” he said.

But other members of the Public Safety Committee were uneasy with the idea of exempting retired officers and other concealed weapons permit holders from the proposed gun storage rules. Councilwoman Nury Martinez said she didn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t lock up their gun.

“Isn’t that just the responsible thing to do, as opposed to having to go to another child’s funeral?” Martinez asked. “Whether you are a retired police officer or an on-duty police officer, I just think it’s the responsible thing to do – to lock your firearm at home."

Councilman Mike Bonin said he also had misgivings about loosening the rules for anyone who holds a concealed weapons permit. He cited news accounts of a former Culver City police chief who Bonin said gave out the permits “like candy” years ago.

At Englander's request, city lawyers were instructed to draft an exemption for concealed weapons permit holders. The revised rules are expected to return to lawmakers for additional debate in roughly a month.

Krekorian, who does not sit on the committee, later issued a statement opposing the proposed change, saying it "would make the public less safe."

"It would destroy a reasonable and measured policy that is designed to save the lives of children and others who die far too often from irresponsibly stored handguns," Krekorian said.

It is unclear whether the police union will support the revised plan. Repovich said the proposed exemption for concealed weapons permit holders would cover retired officers, but the Los Angeles Police Protective League board would need to discuss it before taking a position.

The National Rifle Assn. did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It unsuccessfully challenged the gun lockup requirement that San Francisco passed eight years ago.

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