Press-Republican

October 5, 2012

Franklin County OKs testing of gun users

By DENISE A. RAYMO
Press-Republican

---- — MALONE — Franklin County says it can profit from verifying the gun-handling proficiency of retired law-enforcement and correction officers who want to take weapons out of state.

The idea was approved by the County Legislature Thursday in a close vote.

RULE CHANGE

Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill says he’s been approached to provide this service by several retirees who travel to Florida and other states in the winter and want to carry a weapon with them when they go.

A federal law passed in 2004 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, called the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act and known as HR 218, allows such retirees to carry guns across state lines without violating state laws, he said.

In order to carry a weapon in New York state, the retired gun owner must have a pistol permit.

The federal law supersedes New York’s gun law and allows intra-state transport with the exception of carrying a weapon within the five boroughs of New York City and at federal parks.

Police and correction officers typically obtain pistol permits on the job and then, at retirement, continue owning personal weapons.

“Normally, if you’re in the business of law enforcement, you already have a pistol permit,” said Undersheriff Patrick White. “And under HR 218, you’re allowed to have it, but you have to qualify and be deemed proficient with the weapon.”

To qualify to carry a concealed weapon under HR 218, retirees must prove they have a pistol permit, worked in law enforcement for at least 10 years and separated from service in good standing.

They must also provide their own weapon and ammunition and arrange a test with a certified weapons instructor to prove their

proficiency in handling their weapon.

LIABILITY CONCERNS

A business in Massena in St. Lawrence County called RETLAW Personal Defense is owned by a retired federal officer and is the only other place besides Rockland County and Nassau County to offer proficiency testing.

County legislators were concerned during discussions Thursday that there must be a reason so few counties are offering this.

They fear that the potential liability is a real threat, but that argument was defeated in a 4-to-3 vote that gave Mulverhill permission to conduct the specialized testing as a one-year trial.

COUNTY FEE

Deputy Sgt. Scott Hudson is designated as the weapons trainer for the Sheriff’s Department, and Mulverhill is in negotiations with the Malone Fish and Game Club to use its shooting range for testing.

Once proficiency is verified, a photo-identification card is issued with the type of weapon the person qualified with and the expiration date of the permit.

It is issued for a year and must be renewed annually.

Each person would be charged $50 for the application to take the skills test and $10 for the one-day game-club membership needed to use the firing range.

“We’re not issuing guns to people; we’re verifying their proficiency,” Mulverhill said.

“I see this as revenue for the county. How much, I don’t know, but there is potential there.”

Classes would be held when enough people were interested in it and when Hudson was working his regular shift so it would not cost the county extra, the sheriff said.

“And at $50 with three or four people a day, (Hudson’s) salary would be covered,” he said.

OPPOSED

Legislators Paul Maroun (R-Tupper Lake), Guy “Tim” Smith (D-Fort Covington) and Sue Robideau (R-Brushton) voted against the idea.

“I’m opposed because you open up possible liability to the county,” Maroun said, adding there is no guarantee that the person’s mental state at the time the pistol permit was issued is the same as when they retire.

“I think we should look into it further,” he said. “We’re giving retired COs and State Police license to carry concealed weapons anywhere in the United States of America.

“I hope our taxpayers are not held liable.”

Email Denise A. Raymo: draymo@pressrepublican.com