Old Military Weapons Go To N.C. Law Enforcement


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Mark Tyson
September 7, 2003, 11:59 PM
Old Military Weapons Go To N.C. Law Enforcement
09/05/2003

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -- A police officer patrolling the gardens of the North Carolina Arboretum, near Asheville, carries a machine gun. Preparing to face drug suspects, Greensboro police officers arm themselves with bayonets.

Both seemingly far-fetched scenarios are possible under a federal program that supplies surplus military equipment to local law-enforcement agencies.

In North Carolina, $84 million in equipment has been handed out since 1994, putting M-16s, grenade launchers, Humvees, mine detectors and bayonets into local police arsenals, the News & Record of Greensboro reported Friday.

It's a far cry from idyllic Mayberry of TV's "Andy Griffith Show," where Deputy Fife carried an unloaded revolver on his hip and a bullet in his chest pocket.

Mike Lindsay, chief of the arboretum's four-member police force, said of his department's M-14 rifle, "Hopefully it will never have to be utilized."

In all, the program has delivered at least 1,156 surplus machine guns to North Carolina agencies under a 1991 law that was intended to open military stockpiles to local sheriffs and police chiefs fighting the war on drugs. Later, the program was broadened for use in any law enforcement mission.

There are few regulations on what kind of security and training departments must have to get the weapons, which can go for thousands of dollars on the black market.

Departments simply send a request to Law Enforcement Support Services, the Raleigh-based state agency that coordinates the program. The agency reviews requests, making sure the departments promise to train their officers, store the weapons properly and not sell weapons to private buyers.

Some urban police forces use the weapons to equip SWAT teams.

But many go to small towns. The six-member police force in the Randolph County town of Ramseur has four machine guns. In Rockingham County, Madison's 15-member police force is equipped with six military rifles.

At first, there was no limit to what departments could request. But four years ago, state regulators decided some smaller agencies were requesting too many weapons.

Now, departments may request one machine gun for every five sworn officers. Neil Woodcock, head of the state agency that approves military transfers, said he isn't willing to ask police chiefs at the 73 departments that have too many weapons to return their surplus.

In Liberty, Police Chief Gerald Thomas ordered five machine guns requested by a predecessor locked in the department's evidence room.

Thomas, who now works for the State Bureau of Investigation, said he couldn't understand why the weapons were needed, since the department has only two officers on duty at a time. If a situation arose that required that kind of firepower, officers would have to call the sheriff for help anyway.

"Here in town, you don't need it," he said.

Many chiefs believe the firepower is insurance against heavily armed suspects. Almost all point to a 1997 shootout in Los Angeles, where two bank robbers covered in military-style body armor and armed with automatic rifles went on a rampage.

In Eden, which averages one homicide a year, the 46-member force carries 11 fully automatic M-16s. Police Chief Gary Benthin said the guns are there just in case.

"We want to make sure (Los Angeles) doesn't happen here," he said. "It only takes once."

Martin Fackler, a military ballistics expert, said M-16s don't have the power necessary to pierce body armor and can be wildly inaccurate when fired in automatic mode.

"I'm not at all in favor of police having M-16s," he said. "It is far less effective than any other weapon."

Only two North Carolina officers have fired M-16s at suspects.

One was Guilford County Detective Vic Maynard, who shot and killed an intoxicated suspect who pointed a gun at him and another officer in 1997.

A similar scene took place last year in Gastonia, when a man who showed up at his estranged wife's house and started shooting, then pointed a handgun at officers, was shot and killed.

In both cases, authorities ruled the shootings were justified.

And rules about use of the weapons aren't always followed. In the Pitt County town of Bethel, the police chief worked out a deal with a local gun dealer in 2001 to swap three surplus M-14s for seven shotguns his department needed but couldn't afford.

Chief Reggie Roberts said he didn't know program rules and federal law prohibit the weapons from being sold to a private dealer.

"I was told you keep the equipment for a certain time, and then you do what you want with it," Roberts said.

The dealer said he notified federal officials when he realized the weapons were machine guns, although agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives declined to comment on the case or whether the weapons had been recovered.

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El Rojo
September 8, 2003, 12:14 AM
The dealer said he notified federal officials when he realized the weapons were machine guns, although agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives declined to comment on the case or whether the weapons had been recovered."This is the strangest M1A I have ever seen. It has this extra flip switch safety on the side of the receiver. That sure is wierd."

C.R.Sam
September 8, 2003, 12:16 AM
I started to point out a couple of misstatements in that article.
Then realized it is rife with them.

Author can't even get the telly comedy all that right. Yeah, Fife was a joke...but sheriff Andy demonstrated , on occaision , great skill with rifle, shotgun and revolver.

To bad the author can't demonstrate skill with facts.

Sam

c_yeager
September 8, 2003, 05:18 AM
I always thought that this sort of thing had been going on for ages. I mean a LOT of law enforcement seem to wind up with old military weapons. I didnt think it was a big deal. As taxpayers we had to pay for the weapons for the military in the first place. It seems appropriate that they would be recylcled when the military doesnt need them any longer. Sounds like a great idea to me.

edited to add: I bet you dollars to doughnuts that Andy had an M1 rifle or at the very least a 1903 somewhere in the station too.

Augustwest
September 8, 2003, 10:46 AM
Nothing against LEO's - I have a great deal of respect for many of them (not all, but many).

However, the notion that cops have equipment available to them from the federal government that we "commoners" aren't allowed to possess is repugnant to the principles this country was founded on.

It couldn't be more wrong.

That the "drug war" is used as a rationale makes it even more distasteful.

glklvr
September 8, 2003, 01:44 PM
I do have some insight to this issue as I used to be employed with a small NC police deartment. We also requested and received four M14s. Needless to say they weren't "machine guns". The full auto capability had been deactivated. You can't even flip the rock-n-roll switch. The author is either ignorant or deliberately misleading.

Fed168
September 8, 2003, 01:52 PM
Yeah, the author is an idiot. But that is old news down here, musta been a slow news day.

benEzra
September 8, 2003, 08:21 PM
Martin Fackler, a military ballistics expert, said M-16s don't have the power necessary to pierce body armor and can be wildly inaccurate when fired in automatic mode.
Either Fackler is being badly misquoted, or . . . ? If the quotation is accurate, does he not think that even a small bullet going >3000 fps will pierce the soft body armor (II, IIIA) that most armor-using criminals have used? Or does he think that most crooks use Level IV hard-shell vests?

Also, are these A1's or A2's? Three-shot burst isn't inaccurate.

Apple a Day
September 9, 2003, 10:27 PM
benEzra,
The article also goes on to point out that the two times the cops have used M-16s, both targets were killed. :scrutiny:

bigjim
September 9, 2003, 11:01 PM
Do you have the name of the news paper this was written for. We could all e-mail them and poke fun.

Mark Tyson
September 9, 2003, 11:16 PM
No, it's an AP wire service report.

Augustwest
September 10, 2003, 04:23 PM
"I'm not at all in favor of police having M-16s," he said. "It is far less effective than any other weapon."

Well...

Probably more effective than, say, a Buckmark or Mark II.

Rusher
September 10, 2003, 10:09 PM
Will someone please tell me why any Police officer or department needs a a weapon with a bayonet lug?????


Sorry just venting a little.....bad day

Rusher

MMcCall
September 11, 2003, 01:22 AM
Will someone please tell me why any Police officer or department needs a a weapon with a bayonet lug?????

Funny, I thought RKBA wasn't needs-based.

Besides, when was the last time YOU ran up against a charging crackhead? I'd take any advantage I could.

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