Arms sell-off by US police may backfire

THE police department in Greenfield, Massachusetts has found an unusual way to pay for bullet-proof equipment for its new special-response team: selling rifles, handguns and other firearms.

The hundreds of weapons have been accumulating in a back room of police headquarters for years, all confiscated on the streets. Now they offer the department a chance to buy the protective kit which, because of budget cuts, it otherwise could not afford.

It is an idea that has already won the blessing of the city council.

Concerns expressed by a minority that the police might end up abetting violent crime by putting the guns back in circulation were overruled.

'I know some people are saying we should not be in the gun business,' the police chief, David McCarthy told the local Springfield Union News. 'But this is a case where I can take hundreds of guns to Kramer's Scrap, or try to make some money off them so we can safely do our job.'

However, a few concessions to caution are being made. The guns will be sold to a licensed firearms dealer rather than directly to the public and some of the weapons that are obviously more suited to criminal use, including a selection of sawn-off shotguns and sub-machine guns will be consigned to scrap.

In all, Chief McCarthy hopes to raise about dollars 6,000 ( pounds 4,000) from the sell-off to buy items such as bullet-proof vests, riot helmets, bodyshields and megaphones for the 16 officers being trained for the special- response team, which will handle duties like drugs raids and hostage rescues.

At least one city councillor finds the irony of police selling guns unacceptable. 'I don't feel comfortable with the town of Greenfield being in the gun- selling business,' said Carol Letson, who voted against the plan in vain. 'I think it's great that we're in the gun-confiscating business.'

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