It seems that without much public knowledge, and under the radar, several communities in Massachusetts that are not exactly known as hotbeds of criminal activity, have received high-powered and high-tech assault rifles and combat weapons from the U.S..military. Few people would question the need for or wisdom of having such weapons in large, urban police departments like Boston, Lawrence, Brockton or Springfield (not to disparage those communities, just to note that they are large urban cities that have seen more than their share of urban violence and gang warfare.) However, the sleepy summer resort community of Wellfleet, and the upscale town of Belmont?
Those towns aren’t alone in quietly receiving such assault weapons, either: At least 82 local police departments in Massachusetts have obtained more than 1,000 assault/combat weapons over the last 15 years, under a little-known federal program that distributes surplus guns from the U.S. military. At Salem State College, where recent police calls have included false fire alarms and a goat roaming the campus, school police received two M-16 military assault rifles. In West Springfield, police acquired even more powerful weaponry: two military-issue M-79 grenade launchers.
Military assault rifles? Grenade launchers? Is Massachusetts crime so bad that this type of firepower is needed by small, local police departments? More so, an inquiry by the Boston Globe found that most towns receiving these military weapons, did not notify their community of the acquisitions. Now that the story is out, a lot of people are asking legitimate questions. Asked Kevin M. Mullins, 25, who works at a Belmont bookshop, “Is this a war zone? “For what logical purpose do they need semiautomatic rifles in Belmont?” A resident of Wellfleet commented, “About the worst summer time crime that occurs here is that someone steals their fries along with a meal.” Many police departments take a different view, and say they are taking advantage of free weaponry in the event they might need it to ward off terrorists or stop a shooting rampage. In my experience as a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney, the potential need for that is pretty remote. Almost all murder, rape or sexual assault, drug offenses or assault and battery crimes can be dealt very effectively with the standard firearms that all police departments carry.
As a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer, I believe that police departments should have the weapons they need to deal with the threat level they hisorically and typically face: A city like Boston, Brockton, or Lawrence (as examples,) face far more serious threats than a small, historically peaceful community (such as Wellfleet, Marblehead or Belmont, as examples.)
I’d be interested to know what my readers think. Fill out a Contact form on this blog, or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.