Nashville to let police officers carry AR-15s, high-powered rifles

9:20 PM, Jan 14, 2013   |    comments
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By Joey Garrison / The Tennessean 

As a direct response to the recent shootings in Newtown, Conn., and elsewhere, the Metro Nashville Police Department is instituting a new policy that will let trained officers carry their personal rifles - those based on the AR-15 format - in their vehicles while on duty.

Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson plans on formally announcing the policy change Monday, The Tennessean has learned.

"Deadly events across the United States over the past few years, including, among others, those in Carson City, Nevada; Aurora, Colorado; and Newtown Connecticut, demonstrate the high powered weapons with which criminals are arming themselves," Anderson said in a written statement.

"It has become increasingly clear that a pistol and shotgun may not be enough for an officer to stop a threat to innocent citizens. This policy change is in the best interest of public and officer safety."

Under the department's existing policy, this type of weapon is available to a limited number of officers involved in assignments such as SWAT and Canine units.

According to Metro police spokesman Don Aaron, the new policy will allow officers to carry "personally owned" patrol rifles of varying manufactures based on AR-15 platforms inside their vehicles so long as several regulations are met: police staff must inspect and approve the weapons for uniformity; no modifications are made to the rifles once approved; and that officers approved to carry rifles complete a course on patrol rifle deployment.

The weapon of choice during three United States mass shootings, the AR-15 rifle, has emerged at the center of a national debate over gun control.

A gunman used an AR-15 to slaughter 20 children and six adults Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Earlier in December, a gunman went on a shooting spree in an Oregon mall with an AR-15, killing two people. And last summer, a gunman armed with an AR-15 sprayed an Aurora, Colo., movie theater where 12 people were killed.

Patrol rifles, under the new policy, are to only be used "when it is clear that a tactical advantage over a criminal suspect is warranted," Aaron said, and are not meant for routine calls.

According to department figures, one-third of its 1,400 sworn Metro police officers currently own these now-permitted weapons. Twenty of these officers will help oversee the department's initial training course later this month.

The department itself will issue ammunition to officers.

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