Police Assault Rifles

There’s been a lot of talk on the blogosphere this weekend about Mayor Daley of Chicago outfitting police with M4s.  While I’m a proponent of a well-armed police force, I will suggest that rifles capable of fully automatic fire have no place in police work.  That’s not to say I have a problem with police having AR-15s, and I do believe that the submachine gun has a role to play in tactical units, but issuing military M4s to patrol officers is probably a foolhardy publicity stunt on the part of the mayor.

The only real purpose for automatic weapons is to suppress enemy fire, to allow members of a squad to advance, or to defend against a human wave attack, where there’s a need to take down multiple targets on a battlefield.  In police work the object should be well aimed fire, and for that semi-automatic AR-15s should be sufficient for that purpose.

Feel free to disagree with me in the comments, but I’d hate to think what would happen the first time an officer flips off the safety a bit too energetically.  I also tend to think what’s prohibited to civilians, because it’s a “military weapon of war,” ought to also be prohibited to police forces.   If the police need it and can use the firearm for self-defense, so can I.  If I can’t have it, because it’s not useful for self-defense, then it’s not useful for police self-defense either, right?

This brings me to a thought I’ve had since oral arguments in Heller.  Would a good test for the second amendment be any arm that’s in common police use is protected?  Keep in mind that the courts, according to every export on this subject that I’ve ever talked to, are going to be completely unwilling to rule that the second amendment is without limit, and are absolutely not going to be willing to rule that it protects explosive ordnance, such as rocket launchers, and anti-tank weapons.  A common police use standard, I think, would probably be pretty reasonable.  What do you think?

25 thoughts on “Police Assault Rifles”

  1. The police in most cases can’t even hit what they aim at with semi’s much less their pistols. Now I know about stress on the firing line, but when 3 officers fire and hit a “suspect” 50 times I wonder how many rounds they fired alltogether. The police in that shootout in Californicator, how many rounds did they fire, that was a long shootout. I realize the bad guys had armour on but the police borrowed m16’s(?) from a gun store nearby and still one of the bad guys had to commit suicide and it’s rumored the other one bled to death before “help” could arrive. What is going to happen when they get fully automatics. Probably the same things that happened in Viet Nam, thousands of rounds fired on full rock and roll and no dead “bad guys”. In this case I am afraid it will be more dead civilians instead.

  2. That’s not true for all police. Some cops are great shots, others need more practice. Kind of the same with civilian shooters.

    The North Hollywood Shootout was a problem of the police being insufficiently armed. A few cops with AR-15s could have ended that quickly, but when all you have is a pistol and a shotgun, and your opponent is wearing body armor and is carrying an automatic weapon, there’s not much you can do, unless you can make a head shot with a pistol at a distance, which most people can’t do on a moving target under stress. I heard stories of the cops going into local gun stores to requisition AR-15s in that shootout, but they definitely can’t do that these days, since California, in its infinite wisdom, chose to make them illegal.

    But your fear that the end result could be uncontrolled fire is a valid one. On the battlefield it’s not so much of a concern, but on a city street, aimed fire is paramount.

  3. Sebastian: I generally agree.

    In fact, my definition for “reasonable” would be something along the lines of what Kim du Toit proposes.

    The only point where I disagree with Kim is in regards to “destructive devices”. I think that NFA-style restrictions (as he describes for crew-served machine guns) would be “reasonable” for DDs, but that they shouldn’t be prohibited. Here’s why (warning: fun ahead!).

  4. well, when you have to arm the police with military weapons, you’ve generally come to a very bad place as a society, for a couple possible reasons.

    1) you SUCK as a elected leader and have let things get too far out of hand to retain control
    2) you want or already have a police state
    3) maybe not you, but society as a whole has swirled down the toilet because of policies like those you support and defend
    4) the military was selling them off and in order to justify your continued yearly plunder check you have to spend it on something, and dang it secondhand shoot-from-the-hip bullet hoses are cheap.

    Cops ARE civilians. If it’s good enough for them, then it damn well is good enough for us. That’s especially true when you consider that the police are NOT the targets of criminals because they’re all armed, there are “separate but more equal laws” when they are the victim of a crime, or as David Codrea points out daily, when they commit the crime.

    I’m not sure when this thinking of police as something other then a civilian came into being, but it’s a very dangerous idea…that a nation can have a special group of people above the law that are charged with enforcing it.

    As for automatic fire and the police, the fact that they feel the need to shoot in most cases is a direct reflection of a decaying society.

    The troubles I see with this is that if the cops are issued automatic weapons, someone will probably find a way to use them to justify the purchase. The anti-rights folks will have the high ground in any case. They can claim that it;s their “special training” that makes them safer users, OR they can point to any and every inappropriate use or innocent killed by them as a reason to further restrict them. You get the idea.

    As far as I’m concerned, allowing the cops to be “only ones” hand in hand with the military is like banning all ownership. The truly frightening part is that if all guns were banned and only criminals had them, they’d likely find themselves behind bars after committing a crime, when it’s the cops they’ll cover and have those special privileges to hide behind.

  5. Sebastian:

    One of the Chicago Tribune articles stated that the rifles were to be semiauto (M4 “type”) carbines. But it is clear these articles have succeeded in one regard…to further confuse and befuddle the public about semiautomatic firearms versus real assault rifles. Even those of us that know perfectly well the differences between semiauto, fully auto, and selective fire are confused about what exactly was decided during this “Emergency Gun Summit” last Friday. For example, Daley is quoted, refering to “semi-fully-automatic” weapons. I’ve been around guns all my life and have never heard of such a thing, nor have heard of select fire weapons called “semi-fully-automatic.” Moreover, one of his quotes implies that criminals can carry assault weapons, because it’s not a violation of federal law. Well, this would alarm the general public…and their response is that because it’s not a violation of criminals to carry “assault weapons”, then it should be illegal at the state level. But Daley knows full well that criminals can’t possess firearms persuant to federal law. I suspect he’s trying to alarm the public, and garner more support for state-wide gun bans.

    Anyway, my take on the matter is that the primary goal of this announcement, and the ensuing discussion of this issue, is to confuse the public and the media, to put this issue in the spotlight, and eventually attempt to ban semiautos in the state of Illinois.

  6. I’m in total agreement. Cops are civilians, nothing more, nothing less. If a police officer is legally permitted to own X then a civilian is legally permitted as well. If the subject of debate is training for fully automatic / high power / buzz-word of the day then as long as civilians can obtain the same training, I don’t see why it’s a problem.

    I’ve often thought that the 2A may have worked too well. The federal government has absolutely no chance at every imposing tyranny. The LOCAL governments, however, are quite adept at castrating the gun owner so that the mini-tyrants can use the police to enforce their rule.

    The idea of cops being non-citizen enforcers is a dangerous thing. Of course, bring it up in front of the public and I guarantee you you’ll get more tickets than you can afford. But it’s something that needs to start being addressed soon.

  7. I think police should think long and hard about discharging ANY rifle in an urban/suburban environment. I know most shooters are keenly aware of the Four Rules, but with the level of firearms knowledge I see displayed by most cops, I would NOT take it for granted that they know that a firing a .223 is an entirely different proposition than an 9mm. Be they semi- or full-auto (and I agree there is simply no reason for cops to have machine guns) I hope Daley is giving them some remedial training along with their new toys.

    Maybe they should check out the Box O’Truth…

  8. Well, I disagree: police should be prohibited from carrying full auto weapons while on duty. And _everyone_ who is allowed to own _any_ weapon should be allowed to own full auto weapons — and comparison to the police or the military is irrelevant. If the police ever encounter a situation where full auto is needed then they should call up the militia.

  9. Yes, yes; cops on duty don’t need auto weapons, unless they are in a tactical team, and that’s still a maybe.

    I disagree with you about auto weapons for defense. While I do agree with you about how they are used in war, which is entirely different than here in VA, I also know that select fire weapons are meant to put well aimed bullets into a target at a distance, and multiple bullets into a target up close.

    This is why I think that select fire weapons such as the Colt M4 are perfect for home defense. Handgun rounds are not very effective at putting a scumbag down quickly, but a short rifle firing a short burst of light and fast bullets is just the ticket. The handgun rounds will penetrate way more walls than, say..the .223 Remington, because they are not moving fast enough to break apart.

    I also think that the utility of select fire weapons does not facilitate mass murder because of how fast the magazine is emptied. It only takes a couple of seconds. Look at the North Hollywood shootout for…pretty much the only example. Those guys fired over 1,100 rounds and didn’t kill anyone. Granted they hit 12, but Cho did far worse than that with a semi auto handgun.

  10. “A common police use standard, I think, would probably be pretty reasonable. What do you think?”

    Now I never thought about that before but I agree. If the cops can use them so should the citizenry. After all, cops are civilians too.

  11. Sebastian said: “Would a good test for the second amendment be any arm that’s in common police use is protected?”

    With all due respect (and that’s a lot), I disagree – strongly – and think that would be an absurd and unreasonably exclusive standard. An old double-barreled fowling piece is certainly not in common police use, nor is a single-shot .22 farm-pest control rifle…yet it would be absurd to argue that the founders didn’t intend for the possession of such firearms be protected under the 2A. There may indeed be some potentially useful and reasonable “tests” for what comprises protected arms, but a “common police use” standard is certainly not one of them.

  12. I didn’t have in mind for it to be that specific. More along the lines of “police use handguns, so all handguns are protected” or “police use semi-automatic rifles, so all semi-automatic rifles are protected”. I think the courts are going to be loath to get down a great level of detail in what arms are and aren’t protected. I think it’s more a matter what classes of arms are protected, and which aren’t.

  13. I also probably didn’t mean to imply that if a firearm were not in common police use it would not be protected, just that if we accept the second amendment protects a right to self-defense, then a police use standard would be a reasonable test. If the government tries to ban a class of firearm that’s under the notion that a person doesn’t need one to defend itself, you resort to the police use exception. The police use it, who are civilians, and probably the best modern day equivalent of the militia, so therefore it is a protected arm.

  14. Ah yes, I see what you are getting at and that makes more sense….or at least I can better wrap my brain around it.

    Yet, to articulate a “police use standard” that would pass court scrutiny, there are two main issues (upper end and lower end) that would have to be worked out. You seem to be working out the lower end (e.g. protections for hunting shotguns and rifles not used by police).

    Here are the issues:
    1) What is the standard for protected weapons that are not in common use by police?
    2) What is the standard for protections that are in use by the police today, yet might not be in the future. For example, there is a movement for police to use more and more non-lethal weapons. Let’s say one day that police are forced to carry stunning tasers instead of tissue-damaging projectile-firing pistols. Would then pistols loose their protected status?

    I think you guys are on to something, but there are certainly many potential problems with a standard such as this (as there would be with any standard). I kind of prefer the DC District’s conclusion…that if it’s an arm, then it’s protected. But there are problems with that, too. This is complicated, and I predict that Robert’s urgent question will rule the day in late June – “Why do we need to develop a be-all, end-all standard at this time?” The answer? They don’t.

  15. “…hit a “suspect” 50 times I wonder how many rounds they fired alltogether. The police in that shootout in Californicator.”

    Sorry tjbbpgob that shooting was in New York. Sheesh at least get your facts straight…..

  16. The day the cops can only carry nonlethal weaponry is the day the police force no longer is effective and can be thoroughly dismissed. I know if I were a criminal I’d be a hell of a lot bolder knowing NOBODY can kill me, not even the cops.

  17. I think we’re losing sight of the fact that 2A wasn’t written about cops and crooks… no police force existed then. It was written to keep the GOVERNMENT in check, and thereore we ‘civilians’ should be able to posess and and all armament in gov’t inventory.
    Also, note Vin Suprynowicz’s argument that “the government can only excercise powers delegated to it by the the people, and you cannot delegate to the government a right or power that you do not already posess”. ‘The Militia’ is you and me!

  18. Sulaco, at least read what I am saying. I know and differentiate between the two (2) shootings, I believe. I was trying to show how many civilians(not bad guys) who will be at risk if the police get semifullyautomatic bullet spraying hoses.

  19. Just as a point of reference the most commonly issued M4 in the military is a three round burst weapon, not fully automatic.

  20. Police are citizens not somehow better or with extra rights, yes they have a dangerous job and yes the need adequate arms for there own defense while doing there job. I’m not anti police, I have great respect for people that go out of their way to find the and deal with dregs of society that I do my best to avoid. It’s just that I have the same right to self defense that they have and I have the same right to own and carry arms for protecting myself and my family. I just wish that the government would recognize that right instead of threatening to imprison me for exercising that right.

    Marco wrote a great essay on this subject about 2 weeks ago,


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