WASHINGTON — The federal government will again give local law enforcement surplus military weapons — including bayonets and rocket launchers — under a plan unveiled by President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Trump on Monday lifted Obama-era restrictions on such gear. The Obama ban had been applauded by those on the Left and the Right.
“We will not put superficial concerns above public safety,” Sessions told the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), a union. “All you need to do is turn on a TV right now to see that for Houstonians this isn’t about appearances, it’s about getting the job done and getting everyone to safety.”
Under the Trump plan, police once again can obtain things like surplus armored vehicles and large-caliber weapons from the military.
The FOP was one of a number of organizations campaigning to get the ban rescinded. Obama implemented the ban following national outrage over police militarization during the 2014 Ferguson riots.
FOP officials said rocket launchers would be used for tear gas.
“We’re not talking about tanks and cannons,” James Pasco, the FOP’s executive director, said. “Armored vehicles don’t attack people; they protect people and not everyone can afford this equipment.”
Said Obama when he announced the policy: “We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like they’re an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them.”
Trump’s action was quickly criticized by people on both sides of the aisle.
“Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous — or false — security,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, said. “The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm.”
Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, agreed. Gupta was an official in the Obama Justice Department.
“Our communities are not the same as armed combatants in a war zone,’ Gupta said.
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