(CNSNews.com) - President Bush Thursday will sign the "National Concealed Carry for Cops" bill, a measure allowing about a million off-duty and retired officers to carry weapons out of plain sight.
The Law Enforcement Alliance of America (LEAA), the nation's "leading conservative police-based organization," celebrated the passage of the bill introduced by Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), an effort 12 years in the making.
Ted Deeds, chief operating officer for the LEAA, stated that the bi-partisan bill had "overwhelming support" and is "great for law enforcement."
Deeds also claimed that most people were unaware that off-duty or retired police officers could not carry guns outside of their jurisdiction. The bill allows off-duty and retired officers to have concealed-carry rights throughout the United States.
He dubbed the legislation "homeland security at no cost," adding that this measure would thwart criminals and terrorists.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry made a rare appearance in the Senate, coming off the campaign trail to try to defeat the measure he had originally helped sponsor, Deeds said.
Kerry and his Massachusetts Democratic colleague, Sen. Ted Kennedy, became concerned over cops carrying "concealed sniper rifles" and "grenade launchers," according to Deeds, prompting Kerry to introduce "poison pill" amendments that would have attached further gun control measures to the concealed carry bill.
Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America (GOA), said the bill was a "step in the right direction" but noted that his group was "reluctant" to get behind the bill.
He said GOA thought the bill would be viewed as establishing a "privileged class" of people who had concealed-carry rights, while law-abiding gun owners would not be afforded the same rights.
"We would rather have had the police working together to get everybody able [to have concealed-carry rights]" Pratt said. He added that his organization and other supporters of the Second Amendment would continue pushing legislation allowing civilians the right to concealed-carry without the requirement of a permit or license. Pratt pointed to such laws in Alaska and Vermont and called them "very effective."
"The record of concealed-carry legislation has been very positive overall. We've seen that [in] the states that have adopted those laws ... the results have been uniformly positive," Pratt asserted.
He also said that gun control advocates might wish to "look at the record" on how concealed-carry has reduced crime before they start "hollering" in the future.
As more states are enacting concealed carry measures, the nation's violent crime rate has decreased every year since 1991. In 2002, the rate hit a 23-year low.
According to the FBI, right-to-carry (RTC) states have lower violent crime rates on average: 24 percent lower total violent crime, 22 percent fewer murders, 37 percent fewer robberies, and 20 percent fewer aggravated assaults. The five states with the lowest violent crime rates are RTC states.
Thirty-eight states now have laws permitting citizens to have concealed-carry rights, an all-time high.
Repeated calls to the National Rifle Association, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence requesting comment for this article were not returned.