This OTYCD entry originally posted in September 2017. We’re reposting it now (June 2020) because Brian Schatz, Democratic Senator from Hawaii, is sponsoring a bill that would stop this practice. This story tells you how you can push back on the state level.
Contact your state legislators–your state senator and state house rep–and urge them to pass laws that prevent your state’s police departments from accepting surplus military combat gear that the federal government might offer to their forces.
In August 2017, Trump issued an executive order that reversed a 2015 executive order of President Obama’s which had barred American police forces from accepting castoff military gear. Before Obama’s order, the police had access to some heavy-duty stuff: armored vehicles, grenade launchers, bayonets, and more.
Obama had issued his order partly in response to concerns about how the local police had handled protests in Ferguson, Missouri after a white police officer killed Michael Brown. In explaining why Trump was lifting the ban, U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions stated, “Those restrictions went too far. We will not put superficial concerns above public safety.”
We can’t stop the feds from offering the military gear to state police departments. But we can ask state legislators to pass laws that stop police departments from accepting it.
Back in March 2015, Montana state legislator Nicholas Schwaderer, a Republican, wrote just such a bill. It passed with bipartisan support, and Montana’s governor, Democrat Steve Bullock, signed it into law.
First, find the contact information for your state representatives. If you don’t know who they are, plug your address into this search engine, and it’ll tell you:
State representatives are far easier to reach directly than federal representatives, though some do have an intern or a staffer. State reps are also far less likely to be stratified in their views–conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans still exist on the state level.
Here is a suggested script for calling or writing your state reps:
“Dear (Senator/House Rep Lastname,) I am (Firstname Lastname, from town, zip code). I am (calling/emailing) to ask you to write a bill that would prevent state police departments from receiving castoff military gear, such as bayonets, armored vehicles, and grenade launchers. I believe that the state’s police departments should not have the opportunity to use equipment designed for warfare against the citizens they are supposed to protect and serve. Writing a bill that prevents the police from accepting military gear from the federal government will keep us all safer. Thank you.”
Read more about Trump’s executive order on castoff military gear:
Read about the Montana bill and its success:
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