Executive order restricts military weapons for local law enforcement

by Elizabeth Smith

The White House is restricting which military weapons land in the hands of local law enforcement agencies.
President Barack Obama announced  in New Jersey last week that his administration is banning federal agencies from transferring certain types of surplus military-style equipment to local police and making other weapons more difficult to obtain.
The list of banned equipment includes tank-like armored vehicles, grenade launchers, bayonets, certain camouflage clothing, and weapons and ammunition of .50-caliber or higher.
The ban does not prohibit military surplus programs from providing equipment like bandages, guns and some armored vehicles to local police forces that may not be able to afford them otherwise.
A report the White House released last week said the outlawed weapons used by the military have a detrimental effect on a community’s trust of its police force.
The University of Minnesota Police Department never owned any of the banned items the report lists, but it came under scrutiny in September for having two M14s and six M16s they received through a federal surplus program in 2006.
Despite the legality of owning the rifles, UMPD has since given them to the United States Army’s Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois, according to a University public safety announcement.
Some argue that the limit set by the president will bring little change, since local law enforcement can still obtain the equipment by purchasing it themselves.
“We don’t see this as a reality of making a difference, we mainly see it as just creating a perception that people are doing things to make a change,” said Eric Bauer, president of the University’s Students United Against Police Brutality.
Along with the limit on weapon donations from federal agencies, Obama’s executive order will also increase government oversight and training to monitor the use of permitted military-style weapons, which Bauer said he thinks should be upgraded to full removal of these weapons in local law enforcement.
Concerns over the militarization of law enforcement have increased since last summer’s protests in Ferguson, Missouri, the report said.
The Missouri incident, documented by videos and photographs, show police officers holding military-style weapons from the roofs of tanks, which the report characterized as “a ‘military-style’ operation.”
Bauer said he thinks providing these weapons to local law enforcement separates them from the community.
“[The ban is] answering a symptom of the relationship between police and military, but it fails to address some of the deeper connections between them,” he said.
The ban took effect immediately, but the stricter restrictions and training will be implemented October 1.