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Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Gun Control Problem: Securing SWAT Weapons

     Burglars, on October 13, 2011, stole twenty-one MP-5 submachine guns and fifteen Colt .45-caliber handguns from storage at a SWAT training site in downtown Los Angeles. Fortunately the training weapons had been converted to fire rounds with plastic bullets. According to a Los Angeles police commander, it would take significant skill and special parts to make these weapons functional.

     What follows are a few examples of what has become a recurring problem regarding the security of SWAT weapons and gear:

June 3, 1997
Memphis, Tennessee
     Thieves stole, from an FBI SWAT team Chevrolet Suburban parked in a hotel parking lot, a cache of M-16 rifles, shotguns, tear-gas equipment, bullet-proof vests, helmets, shields, and ammunition. Police found the burned-out shell of the vehicle on the other side of town.

November 5, 2004
Dayton, Ohio
     After SWAT team practice, an officer with the Dayton-Montgomery County Regional SWAT team parked his pickup outside a restaurant where he stopped to eat. While he had dinner, someone broke into the vehicle and stole a shotgun, two rifles, and a submachine gun.

February 6, 2005
Jacksonville, Florida
     On Super Bowl Sunday at 3:45 in the morning, thieves broke into an Atlanta Division FBI van and stole eight assault weapons including four sniper rifles. Also taken were scopes and 80 rounds of 308 ammunition. The unmarked van had been parked at a Holiday Inn

November 10, 2006
Orange County, Florida
     From a SUV parked outside an Orange County SWAT team member's house, a thief stole an UMP-45 fully-automatic machine gun with a silencer, an H & K G3 assault rifle, and a Glock 21 semi-automatic handgun.

April 23, 2007
Memphis, Tennessee
     While a Wake County (North Carolina) SWAT team ate dinner at a barbecue restaurant, thieves stole seven guns from their van. Stolen were three Sig Sauer Model 551, .223-caliber fully automatic assault rifles; two Remington Model 870 pump-action 12-gauge shotguns; and one Sig Sauer Model 226, 357-caliber semi-automatic handgun.

March 5, 2008
Dallas, Texas
     A SWAT officer with the Dallas Police Department parked his pickup near a department store in a shopping plaza. A thief pried open a door and stole an assault weapon, ammunition, and two flakjackets. Less than a month earlier, a thief stole a semi-automatic handgun from a police car parked in a church parking lot.

June 29, 2008
Orange County, Florida
     A car burglar stole an AR 15 assualt rifle from a Florida Highway Patrol vehicle parked on a residential street. The thief also took a SWAT uniform, body armor, a gas mask, and more than $4,000 worth of speed-detection equipment. The car had been left unlocked, and the gear had not been secured in the trunk.

November 21, 2008
White City, Utah
     After persuading a suicidal man to surrender following a four-hour standoff outside the subject's house, the Salt Lake County SWAT team left a M 4 assault rifle in the front yard of a neighbor's house. The weapon was recovered after a citizen notified the authorities.

October 28, 2009
Dallas, Texas
     A thief stole eight Dallas SWAT team weapons from a Chevrolet Tahoe parked outside the officer's apartment building. The burglar also took body armor, uniforms and a badge. One rifle, which shoots three bullets with one trigger pull, was worth $25,000 on the black market. Three Dallas SWAT vehicles had been broken into that month.

     SWAT weapons and gear, in recent years, have also been stolen from police vehicles in: Palm Beach County and Orlando, Florida; Washington, DC; Jefferson County, Colorado: Las Cruces, New Mexico; Seattle, Washington; Frederick, Maryland;and Phoenix, Arizona.  

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