Ralphie Parker wanted nothing more in life than a Red Rider BB gun, and said as much to his mother, father and Santa Claus. Naturally, he was met with a healthy dose of skepticism, as we all know kids with glasses shouldn’t go anywhere near firearms. Or other people. Everyone told him that he’d shoot his eye out, and when he finally found the opportunity to fire off a round, he did. There are two lessons here, the first of which is that at no point in time should you look down the barrel of a quasi-dangerous children’s weapon. The other is to always ask Santa for cash.
Much like little Ralphie, the Madison Police Department also feels they need some new weaponry to ogle at, and although the Red Rider is a far cry from the personally sighted assault rifles the fuzz are asking for, it’s hard not to look at this situation with the same sense of hesitance. It’s doubtful that anyone’s worried about potential optometry bills, but the question remains: Why do they need these?
According to the MPD, the weapons are needed to replace the 142 universally sighted assault rifles that are currently shared among the officers. The problem with the old guns is that the sights, which help officers line up shots, aren’t perfectly calibrated for specific officers. Think of it as if everyone in the police department had to use the same 142 gloves for the company softball game, if gloves were used to kill and intimidate poor people. Keep in mind that in both situations alcohol consumption is recommended.
But before someone starts off on how this is another example of wasting taxpayer dollars, there’s a catch: Officers wanting these weapons would pay for them with their own money. This is where your mind gets blown. Every year, we’re told how unsafe Madison is, and how we need to put more officers onto payroll and into the street. Yet, when it comes to equipping these same officers with weapons they allegedly “need,” we stop the gravy train. Someone is in the wrong here, and there’s a good chance it’s everybody.
The Madison Police Department has never encountered a situation that warranted 142 assault rifles, no matter how they’re sighted. In fact, it’s hard to think of the last time anyone on American soil needed that many guns, unless you count the Source Awards and parties at Ted Nugent’s place. If it’s important for MPD to have assault rifles, which in itself is debatable, and they need to be personally sighted, take those ones you have laying around in storage and equip them with better sighting mechanisms.
The problem is, as a non-law enforcement member, I can’t be absolutely, positively, “O.J.-did-it” sure that these guns are unnecessary. Maybe the police do need more rifles. After all, you have to deter 19-year-olds from drinking somehow. But by making it an optional program in which any city money spent will be reimbursed, the police are admitting that this is about as urgent an issue as smoking smarties.
If the MPD want something, they typically get it — unless it’s a murder suspect. It’s as true in this town as it is in any other. Lawmakers are frequently voted in because they take “tough stances on crime”, and DAs love to flaunt their incarceration rates like they represent the number of fights they’ve won or holographic Pok?mon cards. If the police say they need more officers to battle Madison’s extremely reasonable crime rates, we fund them for an armada. And yet, here they are paying for their own guns. And it’s only come to this because the City Council already shot down a bill that had the city footing the bill. They’re the spoiled brats of Madison, and for once in their lives, Mom’s not doling out dessert.
Dreams of assault guns are scary enough when you’re 9 years old and playing Tet Offensive in your neighbor’s backyard. When a legitimate organization in a mid-sized college town suggests the 142 they already have aren’t good enough to keep everyone safe, something is terribly wrong. If the Soviets invade next week and we’re caught with our pants down, then my bad. But until then the last thing this town needs is a more intimidating police force.
Sean Kittridge ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism.