The White House announced today that it would begin regulating the federal distribution of certain assault weapons to police departments across the nation, effective immediately.
The new ban will prohibit departments from obtaining grenade launchers, armored vehicles, bayonets and high-caliber weapons. Additionally, certain items such as riot gear and explosives can only be obtained if police can provide the necessary certification.
“We’ve seen how militarized gear sometimes gives people a feeling like they are an occupying force as opposed to a part of the community there to protect them,” Obama said during a speech today in New Jersey. “Some equipment made for the battlefield is not appropriate for local police departments.”
In recent months, people have criticized the militarization of police departments, particularly since the high-profiled killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Freddie Gray among others. After protests started sweeping the country demanding justice for the slain men, many police departments began using military-grade weapons to stave off the demonstrations.
The regulation of weapons is President Obama’s latest move in attempting to reform police departments. In December, he ordered a 21st Century Task Force, a team responsible for outlining a list of steps to reestablish trust between communities and law enforcement agencies. Earlier this year, Obama also announced a budget of $75 million to equip police departments with 50,000 body cameras.
“We are, without a doubt, sitting at a defining moment in American policing,” said Ronald Davis, director of the Department of Justices’ Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, on a press call yesterday before the announcement. “We have a unique opportunity to redefine policing in our democracy, to ensure that public safety becomes more than the absence of crime, but it must also include a presence for justice.”