Reversing an Obama-era policy, President Donald Trump Monday removed restrictions on the kinds of surplus military gear the Defense Department can turn over to local police departments.
The issue has been a sensitive one since the Justice Department concluded that tactics used by police during 2014's violent street protest in Ferguson, Missouri inflamed tensions and created fear among demonstrators.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the change, first reported by USA Today, in a speech to the Fraternal Order of Police in Nashville on Monday.
The executive order "will ensure that you can get the lifesaving gear that you need to do your job and send a strong message that we will not allow criminal activity, violence, and lawlessness to become the new normal," he said.
The Obama limitations hurt law enforcement, Sessions added.
"One sheriff told me earlier this year about how, due to the prior administration's restrictions, the federal government made his department return an armored vehicle that can change the dynamics of an active shooter situation," he said.
Jim Pasco, the police organization's executive director, said the change "is President Trump making good on a campaign promise." Pasco said he and other police officials discussed the issue with the president and attorney general two times during meetings at the White House.
Since 1990, the Defense Department has been allowed to transfer surplus military equipment and supplies to federal, state, and local law enforcement. Though the program was originally intended for counter-drug operations, it was later expanded to include all police missions.
But after the Justice Department concluded that the use of military-style equipment made matters worse in Ferguson, President Obama put some equipment off limits — including tracked armored vehicles, bayonets, and grenade launchers — and required a showing of need for tactical vehicles with wheels.
All those restrictions just went poof as of today, so there's basically no stopping police departments from ordering up all the anti-materiel sniper rifles, grenade launchers, and M2 Bradleys they want for use in your neighborhood.
But of course it will be used to stop "Black Lives Matter terrorists" first. That day was always coming, but with this executive order as of today that day just got a lot closer.
And a lot of people are going to die when that happens.