The general public cannot own assault rifles. It’s against the law. However, in California and several other states, this law does not apply if you are a law enforcement officer, prison guard, school police officer, or even a game warden. A new investigation, as reported by the Long Beach Press Telegram, shows that in the decade since lawmakers first made this law enforcement exception to the assault weapons law, officers have purchased more than 7,600 such weapons.
Federal authorities are now investigating the law’s contribution to potential illegal weapons sales by officers. After all, if they can lawfully get their hands on weapons the majority of us cannot, they could make a pretty penny by selling them on the black market.
Among the things that are off limits for us and okay for law enforcement are assault rifles, some handguns, and high capacity ammunition magazines. Which of these were purchased isn’t exactly known at this time.
Lawmakers are revisiting the law to see whether those guns purchased can only be used for law enforcement duties. “The idea is that these guys would be able to have these in the trunks of their police cars if they’re needed,” says one police commander.
For many departments, allowing officers to purchase these weapons allowed them to bolster their departmental arsenal when they couldn’t afford to outfit the cops with these weapons themselves.
Some departments have restrictions on when and where the weapons can be used and kept. Some even allow the weapons to be used in an officer’s “off-time” while most restrict the usage to only while on duty.
About 1,300 of the Los Angeles Police Department’s 10,000 officers have assault rifles. More than 500 were purchased by the officer themselves. This year, the LAPD accounted for 146 sales to officers, the highest of any department in the state.
With the militarization of police becoming a common topic of news stories, one has to wonder if allowing officer’s to purchase and possess assault rifles (which are otherwise illegal), is a good idea. Are there instances where an assault rifle could be warranted? Possibly, but the majority of officers who would need this type of weaponry are supplied it by the department. Normal patrol officers don’t often get into high-powered gun fights.
Police officers are civilians too. They should not have any rights above and beyond the rights of the people or it seems as if we are making an assumption that they are more responsible to handle such rights—an assumption that could be seriously flawed.
When you are charged with a crime or pulled over by the police, you don’t want the scales already tipped in their favor, though that’s often the way it seems. If you are facing criminal charges or have reason to believe you are under investigation for a crime, contact our offices today.