For a country that has made a provision in its Constitution, granting the right of every citizen to possess a weapon, the latest implemented by Barack Obama is a real revolution. The US President has decided to place a ban on heavy weapons so far provided to the police. They range from high-powered rifles, camouflage and armor. Equipment and vehicles that normally belong to the military but that in the United States are all too often made available to city law enforcement. Obama has not been afraid to challenge, not just a set of rules which can change over time but also a mindset that is common to many US citizens, disproving the equation more weapons equal more security. The worst case scenarios Ferguson, New York, Wisconsin and North Carolina-just to mention the most serious ones-have demonstrated the exact opposite: guns and bullets are used yes to prevent and repress the crime but to equip local police (i.e. members whose duty is to ensure public order in the cities) of large-capacity weapon involves a substantial risk “of their being misused or overused” , as pointed out by the task force set up to address the issue.
The decision was adopted by the White House to coincide with the President’s visit to Camden, New Jersey, one of the poorest and most violent cities in America. The President has, therefore, turned around from his initial intentions, which were the ones to keep plans for the supply of such equipment, considered useful to ensure a respect and observance of the law. The Justice Department had already formulated the recommendations on how to reduce the endowments of weapons of local policemen. Now we move to an operational level: the Federal Government will no longer be able to provide armoured vehicles, high-powered weapons and camouflage to single districts citizens. In addition to other types of equipment, such as vehicles and anti-riot shields, law enforcement departments must justify their use.
The controversy began last August during clashes between demonstrators and officers which then ended up with the murder of a young Afro-American agent Michael Brown. On that occasion the local police also used tear gas and grenades, and were covered with armored cars and a helicopter: a media judged excessive deployment of vehicles for a simmering city protest.
The case went immediately to the upper floors of the American administration that decided to re-examine a law, dating from 1990, which promoted the transfer of arms and related goods of a military nature in excess over territorial police districts. The norm was coined in response to the threat of drug traffickers, often organised as paramilitary groups. In all, according to the Department of Defense, in 25 years, the local police have spent 4 billion dollars to make sure these stocks which include among other things: all-wheel-drive vehicles (pickup trucks, blazers, ambulances and armoured troop transport vehicles), armoured vehicles used by Swat, helmets and vests, boots, binoculars, radios and cameras. A marine equipment rather than policemen which added particularly powerful firearms and tear gas, gas prohibited in war but still used in clashes. All of these offensive tools, will fall under Obama’s cuts, while pistols, ordinance- rifles and teasers will be spared.