Maybe Goldman's bankers are getting guns after all (and even if they aren't, man, this shadowy carry-permits-for-the-rich thing is scary) – UPDATED

Perhaps you've followed the great armed Goldman-Sachs Banker story here, but if not, a quick recap: first, a Bloomberg columnist wrote an unsourced report alleging that Goldman Sachs bankers in New York were arming up, getting permits to carry handguns in the event of a peasant uprising fuelled by outrage over their government-subsidized profiteering on the econopocalypse's human misery. The story had legs, and got widely reported.

Then, a Wall Street Journal reporter filed an article in which New York law enforcement repudiated the armed Goldman Sachs story, saying that there was no record of Goldman Sachs bankers getting NYC carry-permits. On this basis, the WSJ called the story a myth.

Now, a third salvo: an anonymous tipster writes in with word of a secretive, undocumented parallel handgun permitting system available to the wealthy. Essentially, a would-be gunslinger just pays a small-town sheriff somewhere in the USA to make him a "reserve" or "honorary" officer. Now he is entitled to carry all through the USA, without being subject to normal regulations, even as they pertain to ammo, or even carrying guns onto commercial, scheduled airplanes.

The anonymous tipster's point seems to be, "If you disbelieve the armed Goldman banker story because the NYPD doesn't have a record of carry permit applications, then perhaps you should reconsider, because these vampires could be legally arming up without having to go through the NYPD." Click through the jump to read the whole story.

Update: In the comments, Phanatic cites the applicable law and makes a compelling case that this theory isn't true — or that, at least, it's overstated.

Update 2: William Gibson writes, "Ran the story past a friend at LAPD. Smart guy, and usually very clear and accurate on this sort of thing. His reaction:

'In 2004, President Bush signed into Federal LAW, the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, formerly known as HR 218. LEOSA does empower full time sworn law enforcement officers to carry in all 50 states. This law extends to retired law enforcement officers provided certain provisos are met (i.e. regular qualification). However, with respect to "reserves" and "honorary" titles. In order for a reserve to qualify under LEOSA, they must undergo the same rigorous training and certification as a full-time sworn officer. Simply being bestowed a badge and title by some hick Sheriff will not cut it. You must then be certified by the state by undergoing hundreds of hours of training and required field time. I highly doubt most of these "gifted" individuals have done so. On the other hand, it is true that certain wealthy patrons have obtained CCWs by heavily supporting certain regimes. That is true… As a matter of fact, any hick sheriff can give out a CCW that is good for his county and state. However, the CCW holder will not be able to cross state boundaries unless there is a reciprocity agreement with the other states.'

Well, they are the ones who are bogus because they don't understand how CCWs
(pistol permits) operate. Let me give you some insight into CCW in
restrictive places like NYC and California. The key fact is there are *two*
parallel CCW systems. There's the official system, and there is a whole
parallel "stealth" system which I will explain after explaining the official
system. I hope you will indulge my long email to understand the ugliness of
this particular area of law in the US.

In the ten "may-issue" states, which include NY, CA and 8 others, permits are
handled by a local official, usually the chief of police or the county sheriff.
These officials decide who gets permits, usually based on power, money and
status. These permits are public records.

When the police chief of NY says, "Goldman Sachs execs aren't getting
permits!" he means, they are not applying to NYPD for permits. That's not a
surprise to me, because the VIP status threshold for permits in NYC (and LA
and SF) is very very high, above the status of most corporate executives.

(Note that in NYC, unlike most of the US, a permit is needed to merely possess
a gun, so the chief knows about all those applications. In California, no
permit is needed to possess, but a permit is needed to carry, and that permit
is highly restricted in urban areas.)

That's the "official" permit system.

There's also a little-known parallel permit system in place, which has
substantial advantages over the "official" system.

Permits in this parallel system are not public records. They may be issued
from other states. The permits themselves are *fantastic* because they let
the holder possess and carry guns in all 50 states and in DC (state-issued
permits are much more restricted). They also let the permit holder disregard
a lot of state gun laws (things like magazine limitations, assault weapons
bans, etc, which are present in California, NY and a few other states). Also,
permits within this parallel system are available at lower status / dollar
thresholds than within the official systems in places like NYC. In short, this
parallel, stealth system is the smart way to go, with numerous advantages.

This parallel system is the result of the intersection between the various
"reserve" or "honorary" officer statutes which exist in every state, and a 2004
Federal law called the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act. It's often referred
to as the LEOSA, or even more commonly, HR218. In fact this parallel system
was (intentionally or not) created by HR218, so it's necessary to understand
this little-known law to understand the parallel permit system.

HR218 says that a law enforcement officer (as defined by the statute) can carry
his gun in all 50 states and in DC, and generally is not bound by nutty state-
level restrictions, like magazine capacity laws, hollow point ammo bans in NJ,
that kind of thing.

Put HR218 together with all the states that have "reserve" officer programs, and
you have a stealth permit-for-dollars system.

In short, what happens is this: a wealthy New Yorker, with a need to carry a
gun in NY (and other states, such as when he visits NJ or DC, two places where
permits are impossible) finds a financially-strapped small-town police
department in some other state, like Alaska for example. The wealthy New
Yorker buys the town's PD a new Crown Vic, or makes a donation of some kind.

The police chief then gives the wealthy New Yorker credentials as a "reserve"
officer, which do not have any powers of arrest, or any duties, but do qualify
as a "law enforcement officer" under HR218. (Remember, every state has various
"reserve" officer statutes, and many states have no training requirements at all
for those "reserve" officers.) At that point, the chief is happy to have a new
Crown Vic, and the New Yorker is happy that he has a permit which lets him
possess and carry in every state and exempts him from NY's asinine
restrictions (magazine capacity and so on). And it's all "stealth": his
reserve officer status is not a public record anywhere.

Given that many people can afford to donate a Crown Vic, but very few people
have the VIP status and "juice" to get an official NYPD carry permit, and given
that a NYPD permit is actually much more restricted than HR218-carry, you can
imagine that the "official" permits in NY may be just the tip of the iceberg.
The NYPD chief would have *no way* of knowing how many people are (legally)
owning and carrying pistols in NYC using HR218. There is *no* central
registry or database of such information. "Reserve" officer status is something
which exists only in the private files of the issuing police department, which
may well be a small town in Montana or Alaska or somewhere like that.

I have no idea of the actual scope of these "stealth" HR218 "permits" because
they are, in fact, stealth.

So the NYPD chief's statements that Goldman Sachs execs aren't getting gun
permits is baseless and probably incorrect.

There are a few other neato aspects of these HR218 permits. Because these
people are "officers" they can also get letters, on department letterhead,
authorizing even cooler things. Want to carry a machine pistol (like a Glock
18 or mini-Uzi) in NYC? If you can get officer status, and the right letter of
authorization, from a police chief in a small town in a rural state, you
probably can do it legally. Want to carry your piece *on commercial flights*?
Again, get an "armed 24×7" letter from a small-town police chief, and you can
carry your pistol onto commercial flights. I have no idea how common these
practices may or may not be, but the legal framework is in place and it's a
win-win for both parties involved.

Here in California we have a big problem with sheriffs such as Sheriff Baca
operating extremely corrupt, financially-motivated CCW programs, and so some
Californians have explored the idea of bypassing California's CCW law using
HR218, and have posted a lot more research about this legal framework. They
also want to bypass California's weird handgun restrictions ("not unsafe"
handgun roster and magazine limitations). Here is the discussion thread.