Boston's Mayor-elect shoots down police plan to buy AR-15s

It looks like the incoming mayor of Boston is putting a halt to a police plan to acquire 33 patrol rifles at a cost of $2,500 each.

Mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh is shooting down the plan to arm some Boston patrol officers with military-style rifles — setting up a potential showdown with the department which has backed the controversial measure, citing a need for high-powered weapons in light of school shootings and the marathon bombings.

“Mayor-elect Walsh is opposed to the AR-15 rifles,” his spokeswoman Kathryn Norton said in a short statement yesterday. “Unless otherwise convinced by the Boston Police Department, he does not think they are necessary.”

Walsh would have to approve a budget for 33 
AR-15 rifles at a cost of $2,500 each. Police were in the planning phases of acquiring the rifles to put in the cruisers of two specially trained beat cops in each of the city’s 11 districts.

Thomas Nolan, a former BPD lieutenant and now a criminal justice professor at the State University of New York, said Walsh is making the right decision because arming beat cops with high-powered rifles is counterproductive to establishing trust with residents. He noted firing a round from an AR-15 can launch a bullet two miles.

“If the cops have these machine guns, they’re going to use them,” Nolan said. “Someone is going to get hurt, someone is going to get killed, an innocent bystander is going to get caught in the crossfire and there is going to be a tragic result,” he said.

But a veteran officer who asked not to be named said he was disappointed Walsh wouldn’t back the purchase of the AR-15s, saying the weapons are needed to make sure cops aren’t outgunned.


First off, it terrifies me that Thomas Nolan made it to the rank of BPD lieutenant and can’t tell the difference between an AR-15 and a machine gun. That should tell you a lot about the level of firearms training in the Boston Police Department… or in most big city police departments, for that matter. Firearms training for sworn officers is a low priority in most agencies, and police qualifications and requalifications still primarily consists of shooting at stationary targets at known distances in scenarios that aren’t remotely realistic, just once or twice a year. Officers expend just one box of ammunition, are deemed “good enough” under very minimal standards, and are sent back out on the street for another six months to a year.

The myth that law enforcement officers have extensive firearms training is just that… a myth.

Adding AR-15s to the mix without a serious upgrade in both the kind and frequency of training for these 33 proposed “tactical lite” officers  is a serious mistake. I would rather for cops to feel “outgunned” as the anonymous officer laments, and have to think about a police response that doesn’t involve minimally-trained officers in a paramilitary frontal assault. We already saw officers shoot up the city (and each other) during the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers. They shouldn’t have their hands on higher-velocity weapons with more magazine capacity without much more training.


I applaud Mayor-elect Walsh for standing against this seemingly half-baked BPD plan. Let’s hope that other mayors around the country will follow his lead.

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