Political violence from groups like Antifa is causing citizens to question the efficacy of local law enforcement. Demonstrations have turned into violent conflicts due to police standing down when outnumbered by aggressive protesters.
In light of this, Breitbart reports that President Trump recently signed an Executive Order rolling back Obama-era restrictions on providing local police departments with surplus military equipment. Law enforcement will have renewed access to armored vehicles, high caliber weapons, and even grenade launchers.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions spearheaded the move, and explained the rationale behind the change, saying that Obama’s limits “went too far.” For Sessions, the Executive Order’s clear and intended purpose is to hinder crime.
The Attorney General asserted that the order will, “ensure that you can get the lifesaving gear that you need to do your job and send a strong message that we will not allow criminal activity, violence, and lawlessness to become a new normal.”
The federal program which granted police departments access to military surplus equipment originated in 1990. It was authorized by a Democrat-controlled Congress. Lawmakers created the legislation to better aide and equip police for the fight against drugs and terrorism.
President Obama used an Executive Order to limit the program in 2015, largely in response to police actions at the Ferguson, Missouri riots (which were held after the shooting of Michael Brown).
The Justice Department determined that 18-year-old Michael Brown was not unarmed, and was not assuming a cooperative posture with his hands in the air. The mainstream media, as well as various social media accounts tied to Ferguson’s black community, often misreport this fact.
Brown physically struggled with a police officer, and he tried to grab that officer’s gun. This was after Brown was caught trying to rob a convenience store. Nevertheless, many African Americans believed he was killed in cold blood, and organized destructive riots throughout the city as a response.
Police quelled the riots with tear gas, dogs, and armored vehicles. Obama moved to curb the use of such resources, and banned police acquisition of weaponized aircraft and vehicles, track-armored vehicles, bayonets, grenade launchers, and ammunition above .50-caliber. The federal government recalled many weapons that police previously had access to.
Trump’s Executive Order puts much-needed tools at the disposal of local law enforcement. The administration is also cracking down on organized crime. As The Hill reported, Sessions traveled to El Salvador in July as part of the government’s war on the dangerous Latin American gang MS-13, many of whose members have been arrested in the US under Trump’s Department of Justice.
President Trump’s decision to rescind Obama’s restrictions on surplus military equipment has led to criticism from both left-wing and libertarian groups, who see it as a “militarizing the police.” The New York Times reports opposition from Trump-ally Rand Paul (R-KY).
Sessions argues that the issue is more about police officers’ well-being. “We will not put superficial concerns above public safety,” said the Attorney General. In an age of increasing violence from domestic terror groups like Antifa, President Trump’s decision may prove to be the right move for restoring law and order in America’s streets.