CONCORD, N.H. (Feb. 18, 2015) – A bill that would prohibit state and local officials from owning or using certain military equipment, whether provided through the Department of Defense’s 1033 program or other federal grants, was amended into a study committee by the New Hampshire state House.
The vote was 204-134.
OffNow originally reported that the bill passed the House, but the following day, an update to the New Hampshire legislature website indicated the bill was amended before passage. As amended the bill would create a study committee to further investigate the issue of police militarization further. The legislation would have no immediate effect on police militarization in New Hampshire, but would keep the door open for the state to take further action at a later date pending the study committee’s findings.
As originally introduced by Rep. J.R. Hoell, House Bill 407 (HB407), the Police Equipment and Community Engagement Act, would have banned state and local government officials from obtaining military hardware that is “not readily available in an open national commercial market.”
Hoell confirmed that the “open market” described in the legislation would ban any weapons not available over-the-counter to consumers from being obtained by state law enforcement from the feds. This would bring the aspects of the DoD’s 1033 program that are dangerous to state sovereignty to an abrupt end.
HB407 notes that “New Hampshire counties, cities, and towns have received over $6,000,000 in military hardware, including almost 400 military grade rifles, an armored truck, and a grenade launcher.” It also notes that “New Hampshire has received grants to purchase several BearCat type armored personal carriers priced at $265,000 that are not included in the above totals.”
“At the end of the day, we have a law enforcement agency that is more militarized than we intended,” said Hoell.
The bill declares that “no state agency or political subdivision of this state shall acquire, purchase, or otherwise accept for use any military-equipped vehicle or military grade hardware, including but not limited to armored personnel carriers, Title II weapons, unmanned aerial vehicles, or unmanned ground vehicles, unless such military grade vehicle or hardware is readily available in an open national commercial market. The adjutant general shall notify the state attorney general of a violation of this paragraph. Any military-equipped vehicle or military grade hardware acquired in violation hereof shall be forfeited.” An exception is granted for the governor to purchase military equipment from the feds for the purposes of arming the state national guard.
The ACLU recently released a report chronicling the militarization of local law enforcement. It documents the rapid increase SWAT team deployment utilizing paramilitary tactics. According to the ACLU, in nearly 80 percent of the cases, SWAT teams were rolled out for nothing more than serving warrants, usually relating to drug crimes. Almost daily, we hear reports of innocent people getting hurt in these raids.
“They’ve turned ‘protect and serve’ into ‘command and control,'” Tenth Amendment Center executive director Michael Boldin said.
Washington D.C. can largely take credit for creating the aggressive paramilitary response America witnessed in Ferguson, and played out on a smaller scale in cities across America every day.
In the 1980s, the federal government began arming, funding and training local police forces, turning peace officers into soldiers to fight in its unconstitutional “War on Drugs.” The militarization went into hyper-drive after 9/11 when a second front opened up – the “War on Terror.”
Through the federal 1033 Program, local police departments procure military grade weapons, including automatic assault rifles, body armor and mine resistant armored vehicles – essentially unarmed tanks. Police departments can even get their hands on military helicopters.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) runs the “Homeland Security Grant Program,” which in 2013 gave more than $900 million in counterterrorism funds to state and local police. According to a 2012 Senate report, this money has been used to purchase tactical vehicles, drones, and even tanks with little obvious benefit to public safety. And, according to ProPublica, “In 1994, the Justice Department and the Pentagon funded a five-year program to adapt military security and surveillance technology for local police departments that they would otherwise not be able to afford.”
By stripping state and local police of this military-grade gear, it makes them less likely to cooperate with the feds and removes incentive for partnerships. Bills like HB407 can serve as a tool to put the squeeze on the enforcement of unconstitutional laws by denying the warrior cops the feds need to enforce their “laws.”
The OffNow Project is an organization committed to stopping unconstitutional NSA spying and reining in the surveillance-state through state and local activism.