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Obama Mulls Easing Limitations On Military Gear For Cops

President Barack Obama might relax rules against police departments receiving military surplus as law enforcement officials press him on the recent retaliatory murders of police officers in American cities.

Leaders from eight law enforcement organizations met with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the wake of the July 8 shooting deaths of five Dallas police officers, Reuters reported. Shortly after the meeting, on July 17, three more police officers were killed, this time in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in another retaliatory shooting.

In both cases the shooters were killed, but authorities said they were motivated by "revenge" after the high-profile killings of two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

Sterling was shot and killed by Baton Rouge officers at point blank range on July 5. The shooting was recorded by several bystanders, and the resulting footage went viral, sparking outrage and protests across the country.

Castile was shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in his native Minnesota on July 6. The shooting was recorded by Castile's girlfriend, who watched Castile die as her five-year-old daughter was in the back seat of the car and the officer continued to hold her at gunpoint. That video also went viral.

Protests against the killings -- and other incidents involving cops shooting black men -- were still ongoing in late July, with demonstrations closing down major avenues in Minneapolis on July 24, while thousands mourned Sterling at his July 15 funeral.

In 2015, the White House banned police departments from receiving certain military surplus items due to growing concern over the militarization of police.

After ending the major combat phases of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and recalling the majority of troops from both countries -- the military began making armored cars, tactical gear, grenade launchers, heavy armor and M-16 assault rifles available to police through a federal military transfer program created by congress in the 1990s, according to The New York Times.

Obama was applauded -- and criticized -- when he issued the new executive order in the wake of the August 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

“These things are useful tools and the president taking them away will put more officers in jeopardy and at risk of harm or even death," Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama told Fox News at the time. "I don’t know how he can sleep at night knowing his actions will have those repercussions."

With the recent retaliatory attacks against police, Obama is under pressure to relent and once again allow police departments to take military surplus for gear like helmets, armor and grenade launchers.

But there's still opposition from individuals and groups who are wary of militarized police departments.

“Through this ban, the president has taken a critical step towards rebuilding trust between police and the people they have pledged to serve," the ACLU said when Obama announced his executive order. "Grenade launchers, high-caliber weapons, armored vehicles -- this equipment never belonged in our neighborhoods."

Sources: Reuters, The New York Times, Fox News / Photo credit: Oregon Department of Transportation/Wikimedia Commons

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