Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has initiated a state program to license retired police officers to carry concealed handguns, making Maryland one of the first states to implement new federal laws expanding gun rights for retired and off-duty officers, reports the Washington Times. Ehrlich, a Republican, kicked off the program at a police union hall in crime-beset Baltimore, whose Democratic mayor is a likely challenger in next year’s governor’s race. Last week, the FBI reported that violent crime in Baltimore increased 4.2 percent to 11,667 incidents in 2004, while the numbers declined in most other cities.
Ehrlich’s initiative is based on the federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, which President Bush signed into law last year. The act allows retired and off-duty officers who meet certain standards to carry a concealed handgun in any jurisdiction. The weapons are barred from airplanes and in other restricted places. Retired officers must have served at least 15 years, retired in good standing and qualify annually with their weapon to receive the permit.