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Boston Debates: Should Police Carry AR-15s?

boston police ar-15

Image source: Commercial Appeal

Three months into office, the new mayor of Boston and the police department have yet to come to a conclusion that was sparked late last year involving AR-15 rifles.

Boston police officials last year reportedly were pressuring city leaders to buy a “limited number” of AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, believing that the high-powered rifles would help protect the city should another Boston Marathon bombing style attack or mass shooting occur. The movement to acquire the rifles was already discussed prior to the horrific terror attack during the annual marathon, but the incident only fueled the department to push forward.

Mayor Martin Walsh had remained quiet on the gun purchase matter until weeks before his January inauguration. A Walsh spokesperson told the media that he was “not on board.” Walsh representative Kathryn Norton told Fox News that unless the Boston Police Department can convince the mayor that the AR-15s are “necessary,” he will not support buying the semi-automatic rifles.

An unidentified police officer told the Boston Herald that wielding an AR-15 “gives you at least a fighting chance if you go into something where suspects have more firepower than you.”

Former Boston Police Department Lieutenant Thomas Nolan, though, agreed with the mayor.

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“If the cops have these machine guns, they’re going to use them,” Nolan said. “Someone is going to get hurt, someone is going to get killed, an innocent bystander is going to get caught in the crossfire and there is going to be a tragic result.”

The AR-15 – often called an “assault weapon” — is not a machine gun. Rather, it is one of the most popular rifles in the United States and is often touted as one of the most accurate and lightweight semi-automatic rifles on the market – making it an extremely attractive choice for novice and female shooters.

Nolan also believes that arming police officers with AR-15s will erode neighborhood trust in beat cops. Police department spokesman Sgt. Mike McCarthy stated that the rifles will not be used on routine patrols but would allow officers to fire on a suspect wearing body armor from safe distance and avoid further confrontation.

The Boston Police Department AR-15 rifle request sought the purchase of 33 of the high-powered semi-automatic rifles at a cost of $2,500 each. The weapons would be issued to two trained police officers in each of the 11 law enforcement districts in the city.

Before the plan can move forward, Walsh must sign-off of the proposal. Those opposed to the AR-15 rifle purchase have been very vocal in their criticism of the plan. One of the arguments raised by opponents involves the fear that putting the semi-automatic weapons in the hands of the officer could increase the chances of innocent citizens being shot during an emergency situation.

“I don’t believe arming them [police officers] with assault weapons is going to make them any safer,” City Councilor Charles Yancey said.

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