Demilitarization Zone: Congressman Drafting Bill to Keep Army's Heavy Artillery from Police Departments

Cullman has an MRAP, Oxford has a Puma and M-16s, while Montgomery is prepared to resist invasion from, well... somebody. Do these Alabama cities really need all that heavy artillery? In June, we wrote about Alabama police departments getting surplus military equipment and the temptation to use that equipment against citizens.

Like this police chief in Morven, Georgia, none of his 532 residents will get out of line:

Yates said he could “take my guys and the training they have, the equipment we have, and we could shut this town down.” 

No doubt the police in Ferguson, Missouri, thought the same thing when they prepared to respond to protests:

Last night, as the images and stories from Ferguson, Missouri, joined the news churn, many who registered their thoughts via social media noted that what they were seeing—policemen with dogs and AR-15 assault rifles standing in a Stygian, blue-lit cloud of tear gas; crowds of protesters with their hands in the air, screaming “Hands up, don’t shoot”; members of the press being removed from the scene—did not look like America. 

Like police departments in so many other U.S. cities and towns, the Ferguson Police Department eagerly snapped up military-grade equipment — and they're using it:

They have short-barreled 5.56-mm rifles based on the military M4 carbine, with scopes that can accurately hit a target out to 500 meters. On their side they carry pistols. On their front, over their body armor, they carry at least four to six extra magazines, loaded with 30 rounds each.

And they stand in front of a massive uparmored truck called a Bearcat, similar in look to a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, or as the troops who rode in them call it, the MRAP. 

Democratic Congressman from Georgia, Hank Johnson, is drafting a bill to cut back on Pentagon transfers of military equipment to local police forces.  He plans to introduce the bill in September, when Congress finally returns from its summer vacation.  

He noted in the last several months those vehicles have been given to cities in Texas, Idaho, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arizona, Illinois and Alabama.

"This trend is not only sweeping America's small cities, it's hitting American college campuses as well. Ohio State University recently acquired an MRAP," he said. "Apparently, college kids are getting too rowdy."

Johnson said his bill would limit the type of equipment that could be transferred and would make sure states track all equipment received.  

There won't be much time to hold hearings and pass the bill, however, because Congress is only in session for 12 days before taking almost the entire month of October off to campaign. So contact your Senators and Representatives now to ask that they co-sponsor Johnson's bill and help move it through the legislative process. 

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