New Zealand Herald ^ | 8/8/05 | Elizabeth Binning
Police get semi-automatic rifles, test stun gun
By Elizabeth Binning and NZPA
Frontline police are being trained in the use of military-style semi-automatic rifles and are to trial a 50,000-volt stun gun.
During the next few months frontline staff nationwide will do a three-day course in how to use a Bushmaster XM15 M4A3 weapon.
And police will test the Taser stun gun, which has been linked to 70 deaths in the United States and was used in Britain in the arrest of one of the London bombing suspects.
The gun fires a 50,000-volt charge causing the subject's muscles to contract uncontrollably.
The 880 new semi-automatic weapons will replace the old Remington rifles, which they have used since 1993. In Auckland, the first group of officers have already completed training.
Police Association president Greg O'Connor said he had heard positive feedback about the new weapons, with staff feeling better equipped to deal with criminals carrying illegal military-style weapons.
"One comment I did hear a police officer make was, 'Well now we have what some of the bad guys have got'."
Mr O'Connor said the upgrade to semi-automatics was not a reason for the public to be concerned.
"The old bolt-actions are starting to show their age, so it's a bit of an upgrade really. We are still an unarmed police force."
He understood the training on the new weapons was initially for the frontline staff who, if the occasion arose, would use them.
Frontline staff are not usually armed but have access to weapons if needed, and have done for many years.
Funding for the rifles was announced in May when $3 million was allocated to replace the Remingtons.
Assistant Commissioner Peter Marshall said the Bushmaster was identified as the most suitable weapon following a trial of eight rifles.
It was reliable, serviceable and more comfortable to use for smaller-built staff. The Remington rifles will be destroyed over the next few months.
The only opposition to the new rifles has come from the Greens' police spokesman, Keith Locke, who fears the weapons will lead to American-style killings. He has urged police to proceed with caution.
But Mr Marshall said police would use firearms as a last resort to protect themselves or others from harm.
The stun guns use a compressed nitrogen gas cartridge to fire a 6.4-metre-long copper wire with barbed prongs at the tip, which can penetrate up to 5cm of clothing.
Superintendent John Rivers, of the Police Commissioner's Office, said the gun was intended to "induce compliance" without substantial risk to the offender, police or the public.
In the year-long trial, police are looking at the risks involved in using the gun, the legal implications and which groups might use it.
The Police Association said the gun would be useful when police are confronted by methamphetamine-fuelled offenders, on whom pepper spray is ineffective.
I feel bad about the bolt actions that will be destroyed. I am not going to waste time writing about the obvious waste and implications of this act....
Also.. 900 or so weapons to outfit the police force of an entire country.. geez... about a handful of ARFCOMmers combined have more ARs than that...