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Reid's position on 'assault weapons' for police sounds familiar

It's 'what she does with it,' right, Sen. Reid?
It's 'what she does with it,' right, Sen. Reid?
Photo © Oleg Volk. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

The topic of the militarization of law enforcement has come to the fore of late, with the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the hyper-aggressive police response to community outrage about the shooting. Even the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV), so fawningly supportive of unlimited government power as to claim no right to armed resistance against a government that rounds up citizens to be sent to concentration camps on the basis of race or religion, has complained about the militarized police response in Ferguson. Odd, given the fact that their executive director Josh Horwitz has also warned us to "not put too much on the militarization of law enforcement."

The new scrutiny on law enforcement personnel (who no longer seem interested in describing themselves as "peace officers") embracing a "warrior culture" outlook has stirred interest in a bill, H.R. 4934, the "Regulatory Agency Demilitarization Act," introduced by Congressman Chris Stewart (R-UT), to outlaw the evident epidemic of nearly every federal agency forming paramilitary SWAT-like teams of killers to enforce their regulations. There is also talk of altering, or even shutting down, the Department of Defense "1033" program, in which law enforcement agencies are given weapons, vehicles and other equipment that the military no longer needs. As the Las Vegas Review Journal notes, President Obama himself thinks this programs warrants a closer look:

President Barack Obama on Monday also suggested that a review of the federal program might be warranted.

“It’s probably useful for us to review how the funding has gone, how local law enforcement has used grant dollars, to make sure that what they’re purchasing is stuff that they actually need,” Obama said at a news conference.

The article reports that Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has announced plans to review the program, which since the 1990s has funneled billions of dollars worth of hardware to law enforcement agencies all over the country.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, though, seems comfortable with police being armed with what we are so often told are "weapons of war," that belong on the battlefield, and "not on our streets."

Whether we should allow surplus equipment from the military to go to police departments, I say yes,” Reid, D-Nev., said in a televised interview this week. “We have police departments all over the country including those in Nevada who are desperate for more resources, and the mere fact you have the equipment doesn’t mean you have to use it.

“It’s not a question of the equipment, it’s what they do with it,” Reid said.

Hmm . . . "not a question of the equipment, it's what they do with it." That sounds a great deal like what gun rights advocates have been saying for years in response to proposals to ban so-called "assault weapons," "high capacity" magazines, etc. The gun ban zealots' response to that is to argue that the only purpose of such armament is to "kill a large number of people in a short amount of time." But wait a second--I thought "it's not a question of the equipment," but of what we do with it (and just what legitimate law enforcement mission is served by the ability to "kill a large number of people in the shortest possible amount of time," anyway?).

The Review-Journal article notes that Congressman Steven Horsford (D-NV) is also not too upset about police departments equipped with such firearms, as long as they refrain from using them to terrorize the people:

Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., said having the weapons is one thing, but it is quite another to “turn them on innocent protesters who were using their First Amendment right to express their outrage at an unarmed boy being shot down and left for dead for hours in the neighborhood where he grew up.”

Oddly, though, Horsford told the Las Vegas Sun that he wants semi-automatic, detachable magazine-fed rifles kept out of "our neighborhoods":

“I have always spoken clearly, regardless of what area of the district I’m in, that as a parent of three kids and as a person who lost my father to a gunshot, I believe that military-style weapons should not be in our neighborhoods. I have not changed that view,” Horsford said.

So if he doesn't mind cops having "assault weapons," but does not want to allow such firearms "in our neighborhoods," does he propose to ban police from our neighborhoods?

Both Reid and Horsford appear to be arguing that the fact that sometimes law enforcement agencies do indeed abuse the power of certain firearms should not mean that agencies that do not engage in such abuses be forced to get by with lesser guns. Does the same logic somehow not apply to the rest of us?


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