Police in an Iowa city are planning on purchasing their own AR-15s in an effort to ensure they are ready to protect themselves from criminals with similar weapons.
The Marion, Iowa, police are paying for the guns themselves by having money deducted from their paychecks. According to Police Chief Harry Daugherty, the 25 policemen armed with AR-15s will have the ability to deal with suspects who are heavily armed.
Marion's SWAT team are the only authorities carrying AR-15s, but Daugherty said they can't wait for them if something urgent happens.
"We can't wait for SWAT to get there," he said. "We have to do something and, at this point, the chances of the assailant having more firepower is greater than vice versa. I want them to at least be on the same playing field when we're going into these types of situations."
But the city seems pretty safe. Marion is located in eastern Iowa and has about 38,000 residents. They had no recorded homicides last year.
Daugherty said the proposal is not a response to a threat. He pointed out that the semi-automatic weapon was used in recent shootings, like the Aurora, Colorado, massacre, Sandy Hook, and an ambush of two firefighters in New York.
“They’re not going to be pulling out this weapon unless they absolutely need it,” Daugherty said. “But if something comes up, it’s nice to know that you’re on the same plane as what you’re dealing with.”
Currently, Marion police have either a 9-mm. handgun or a 40-caliber Glock.
While Daugherty and many others are pleased with the new weapons, some citizens think it is over the top.
"The protection that we have now is significant, bringing in more guns is just asking for more trouble," Jennifer Rockwell said.
Daugherty disagrees, saying that he needs to "sleep at night too."
"What we're proposing here, this makes sense," he said. "The situations that are out there nowadays, this is what they're dealing with. I hope they never have to pull it, but they will be trained and qualified to do so if they do. If something happens at one of our schools, I just don't want to send my officers into a situation where they're set up to fail."
Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, said it is not too much firepower.
"It's certainly a sound decision by the chief to equip the officers with better weapons to protect themselves and better protect the public," Johnson said.
Johnson also said that the AR-15s would be better for would-be targets as well.
"For me, if I had to choose, I'd rather be shot by an AR-15 than a shotgun," he said. "It's more accurate over a longer range and you can neutralize a threat without exposing them or officers to greater danger."