“Police needing heavier weapons”

This is great news.

WASHINGTON — Law enforcement agencies across the country have been upgrading their firepower to deal with what they say is the increasing presence of high-powered weapons on the streets.

Scott Knight, chairman of the Firearms Committee of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, says an informal survey of about 20 departments revealed that since 2004 all of the agencies have either added weapons to officers’ patrol units or have replaced existing weaponry with military-style arms.

Knight, police chief in Chaska, Minn., says the upgrades have occurred since a national ban on certain assault weapons expired in September 2004. The ban, passed in 1994, in part prohibited domestic gunmakers from producing semi-automatic weapons and ammunition dispensers holding more than 10 rounds.

“This (weapons upgrade) is being done with an eye to the absolute knowledge that more higher-caliber weapons are on the street since the expiration of the ban,” Knight said. He said his own department of about 20 officers is in the midst of determining whether to upgrade its weapons.

Ah, yes. The “assault weapons” ban. Prior to the ’94 ban, the term “assault weapons” did not exist. In fact, now that the ban has (thankfully) expired, that term isn’t really used much anymore, except by gun-banning groups like the Brady folks and police chief associations. For the record, USA Today is completely wrong in stating that the ban prohibited domestic gunmakers from producing semi-automatic weapons. It banned them from producing semi-automatic weapons that looked scary, weapons that looked “militaristic.” They were still completely free to produce semi-automatic weapons as long as said weapons didn’t look like they were a military weapon.

This is why I find it hard to believe that the streets of American have suddenly been flooded with a glut of semi-automatic weapons with the expiration of the ban. The only thing the streets could have been flooded with are weapons that look mean. Nothing has changed with regard to the operation and effectiveness of legal weapons. Of course, there might have been an increase in the amount of automatic weapons on streets in the U.S. (unlikely, but possible). However, this would have absolutely nothing to do with the “assault weapons” ban, as fully automatic firearms have been illegal without special permission from the BATF since 1934. This of course begs the question as to why Chief Knight felt it was necessary to bring up the “assault weapons” ban. He wouldn’t have an ulterior motive, would he?

In Houston, where homicides were up as much as 25% in 2006 over the previous year, Police Chief Harold Hurtt says the AK-47 assault rifle has become “kind of a weapon of choice” for warring gangs, major drug distributors and immigrant smugglers in a city that has become a major transit point for criminals.

“The reality on the street is that many of these weapons are readily available,” says Hurtt, whose department began upgrading its weaponry with assault-style arms about three years ago before he arrived from Phoenix.

I’m not sure this article could get more stereotypical if it tried. Oh no, it’s the AK-47 boogeyman out to get you! I’m surprised Chief Hurtt didn’t drop the other three horsemen of the gun control apocalypse: the TEC-9, Uzi, and AR variants.

I don’t doubt that there are some very nasty people out there with some nasty firearms. The police need to be equipped to effectively deal with these people. But the overall increased militarization of our police departments, when coupled with the drive to disarm our populace, is not a good thing for liberty.

UPDATE: Rob Miller over at Homeland Stupidity has a post up on the same article, including some statistics to refute the assertions of the Chiefs.