President Obama Sides with Thugs

by GREGORY D. LEE May 21, 2015

Three days following National Peace Officers Memorial Day, President Barack Obama announced that he is ending the long-running transfers of surplus military gear to State and local police agencies that could save law enforcement officers' lives.

The president said he will prohibit the military transfer of grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles, .50 caliber machine guns and ammunition to State and local police agencies. Interestingly, none of these items, with the exception of grenade launchers, are used by State or local police. Police use grenade launchers not to launch high-explosive fragmentation grenades, but rather tear gas projectiles that are specifically designed to fit in these delivery devices. When is the last time you saw a police officer with a bayonet, or a police helicopter equipped with machine guns? His list of prohibited items is laughable.

Also, the president has identified a variety of military equipment that will now be harder for police agencies to obtain: wheeled armored vehicles, manned aircraft, drones, specialized firearms, explosives, riot batons, ramming devices, helmets, shields, and battle dress uniforms, much of which were used to quell the riots and protect the police in Baltimore MD and Ferguson, MO. Police departments will now be required to get city council or mayoral approval before any of this equipment is transferred, and police chiefs will have to justify to the government why their departments needs it. If issued, chiefs will now have to document training with the equipment and keep records of its use. President Obama knows that most urban riots occur in cities run by liberal politicians who will probably not approve the requests for this equipment in the future.

While touring the Camden, NJ police department, the president said, "We've seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there's an occupying force, as opposed to a force that's part of the community that's protecting them and serving them." What he failed to mention is that all of this specialized equipment, including surplus military armored vests, are only used for extremely unusual occurrences such as the riots and civil disruptions recently suffered by Ferguson and Baltimore. Under those sets of circumstances, the mere presence of hundreds of police officers in itself might give the appearance of an "occupying force," regardless of how the officers are dressed and equipped.

The president's former director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (now retired) recommended halting the manufacturing, importation or possession of "armored piercing" green-tipped .223 caliber ammunition commonly used in AR-15 style rifles. These rifles are the most popular sporting firearms sold and used in the United States by hunters, ranchers, and target shooters. More people are murdered by hammers and feet in the U.S. then by these rifles. The Obama Administration's attempt to ban the ammunition was a back door attempt to render these firearms gun control advocates love to call "assault weapons," useless. Fortunately, efforts by law enforcement organizations, the National Rifle Association and its membership beat back this regulation and the proposal was withdrawn.

One of the justifications for banning the ammunition was that it could pierce commonly worn police vests. What was not mentioned is that any large caliber rifle round will defeat a bullet proof vest designed to only defeat handgun ammunition. If the president is so concerned about law enforcement officers being shot by "assault weapons," then why is he making it harder for them to obtain surplus military vests and armored vehicles that are designed specifically to defeat rifle ammunition? He can't have it both ways. These vests weigh about 40 pounds and are heavy, hot, and awkward, but they do what they are designed to do. That's why mostly police SWAT teams use them, since they are more likely to experience rifle fire during enforcement operations than a normal uniformed police officer.

By restricting useful surplus military equipment to State and local law enforcement, President Obama is siding with rampaging thugs. He doesn't want them to be intimidated by the presence of well-equipped police officers who would be more capable of quelling major disturbances with this equipment.

Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Gregory D. Lee is a retired Supervisory Special Agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the author of three criminal justice textbooks. While on DEA diplomatic assignment in Pakistan, he was involved in the investigation of several notable terrorism events and arrests. He recently retired after more than 39 years of active and reserve service from the U.S. Army Reserve as a Chief Warrant Officer Five Special Agent for the Criminal Investigation Division Command, better known as CID. In 2011 he completed a combat tour of duty in Afghanistan while on special assignment to the Special Operations Command Europe. Visit his website at and contact him at

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