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Final Vote on Purchase of AR-15 Rifles by Town

I am sorry to tell you that, contrary to our hopes, Germantown will not delay the purchase of the two AR-15 rifles after all. At the Town Board Meeting May 29th Joel Craig made a motion to withhold the rifles until after the officers receive training and are certified by the County Sheriff’s office. The arguments for the purchase of these guns apparently were more persuasive to the Board than our expressions of concerns about them. The vote on the motion required training and updating the Police Manual to cover any new circumstances to be completed before the weapons are deployed, but there was no discussion among the Board to rescind the purchase.

Prior to the vote there was a presentation by a Hudson Police Officer, Randy Clark, about these rifles.  He said he was not advocating for or against the purchase. And that was true, but as someone pointed out later, everything he said was positive about the gun. He said that the other levels of Police enforcement—County and State—were encouraging local police to achieve more conformity with equipment, procedures, etc. to enable better coordination among forces in emergencies. He implied that the AR-14 would be the new standard for use.

When the meeting was opened to public comment both Dorothy Montague and I spoke, as well as Corinne Curry and Richard Montague, expressing our dismay at what we felt was an unwise decision.  I repeated my concerns listed in my letter—as well as I could remember them—and said that I was still not satisfied that they had been answered.  I said that I thought the training component did not seem extensive enough to ensure the safety of using this type of rifle. I am concerned that the logistics of determining the appropriate time to use these rifles made them impractical to use in most crime scenarios.

Dorothy said she felt there was not enough concern for the opinions of the residents in the Town, many of whom are opposed to purchasing this level of armament.  She also stressed the negative effect on the image of the Town because of the publicity about the purchase of the guns. She inquired if there was any additional Liability Insurance cost to the Town. (She was told, “No.”)  The bottom line for Dorothy and for me was that the purchase of these guns does not made us feel more secure.  The possibility of misuse or accidental discharge of these guns makes us feel less secure.

There was also a back and forth conversation about what is expected of a Police Officer in the case of, as they said. “an active shooting”.  Apparently now there is a change in strategies to deal with some shooting scenarios that require any individual Officer to try to disable the shooter as soon as possible and not to wait until any backup arrives. This was chilling to hear especially as one considers our own Police Officer neighbors and the young men who are in training with them.  We can take comfort in that our town does not seem to be a magnet for violent crime.  Also, since calls to 911 go directly to the County Sheriff’s office, the County Police are more likely to be engaged with any violent crime than our local Police.

Andrea Dunn, who had spent several years n the armed services, spoke about what she felt was a misunderstanding about the AR-15 rifles.  She said that far from being what most people think of when they hear “assault rifle”; this model is not configured in a semi- or automatic way that would spray a quantity of bullets in a very short time.  She said each shot that it makes requires a separate pull of the trigger.  This gun does not use the type of bullets that will penetrate a body and continue to go through walls.  Consequently she said it is an upgrade from the shotguns that are now used because it is more accurate, but also easy to use.

These two facts were important for our understanding of what is being purchased and will be used by our police force.  It mitigates my worst fears about possible accidental shooting with many bullets flying around endangering the innocent and the unlucky person nearby.  However, I feel the purchase of these new rifles constitute a possible increase in the violence that can occur in our town. I also feel it was done without the understanding and support of the residents in the town.  If there had been any opportunity to have a more general discussion about the plans to buy these guns we might have reached a better consensus about what makes our Police Officers and the public more secure.

The bottom line is that Germantown Police will be armed with AR-15 rifles as soon as they pass the training requirements.  We may fervently hope that these guns are never called to use—a continuation of the history so far in Germantown—and if they are used that no one –including our Police officers and trainees, is injured or killed.


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