A bill introduced in the New Hampshire state house would prohibit state and local officials from owning or using certain military equipment, whether provided through the Department of Defense’s 1033 program or other grants, and would also indirectly thwart federal efforts to enforce unconstitutional laws.

House Bill 407 (HB407), the Police Equipment and Community Engagement Act, would ban state and local government officials from obtaining military hardware that is “not readily available in an open national commercial market.”

The bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Hoell, confirmed that the “open market” described in the legislation would ban any weapons not available over-the-counter to consumers from being obtained by state law enforcement from the feds. This would bring the aspects of the DoD’s 1033 program that are dangerous to state sovereignty to an abrupt end.

The bill has already received a vast array of co-sponsors from both major political parties. State Reps. J.R. Hoell (R-23), Michael Sylvia (R-6), Edmond Gionet (R-5), Bart Fromuth (R-7), Robert Theberge (D-3), Judith Spang (D-6), Joseph Lachance (R-8), John Burt (R-39), Carol McGuire (R-29) and Max Abramson (R-20) have already endorsed the legislation, showing that concerns with police militarization transcend partisan politics.

HB407 declares that “no state agency or political subdivision of this state shall acquire, purchase, or otherwise accept for use any military-equipped vehicle or military grade hardware, including but not limited to armored personnel carriers, Title II weapons, unmanned aerial vehicles, or unmanned ground vehicles, unless such military grade vehicle or hardware is readily available in an open national commercial market. The adjutant general shall notify the state attorney general of a violation of this paragraph. Any military-equipped vehicle or military grade hardware acquired in violation hereof shall be forfeited.” An exception is granted for the governor to purchase military equipment from the feds for the purposes of arming the state national guard.

The bill cites following alarming facts as the justification for its introduction by stating, “Since the inception of the 1033 program, New Hampshire counties, cities, and towns have received over $6,000,000 in military hardware, including almost 400 military grade rifles, an armored truck, and a grenade launcher… New Hampshire cities and towns are required to repair and maintain this additional military grade hardware that consumes limited town and city funds that are needed for other functions.”

As we saw during in the aftermath of the shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo. last year, local police have turned into militarized forces with little respect for the people they were meant to serve. And Ferguson was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

The ACLU recently released a report chronicling the militarization of local law enforcement. It documents the rapid increase SWAT team deployment utilizing paramilitary tactics. According to the ACLU, in nearly 80 percent of the cases, SWAT teams were rolled out for nothing more than serving warrants, usually relating to drug crimes. Almost daily, we hear reports of innocent people getting hurt in these raids.

“They’ve turned ‘protect and serve’ into ‘command and control,’” Tenth Amendment Center executive director Michael Boldin said.

Washington D.C. can largely take credit for creating the aggressive paramilitary response America witnessed in Ferguson, and played out on a smaller scale in cities across America every day.

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In the 1980s, the federal government began arming, funding and training local police forces, turning peace officers into soldiers to fight in its unconstitutional “War on Drugs.” The militarization went into hyper-drive after 9/11 when a second front opened up – the “War on Terror.”

Through the federal 1033 Program, local police departments procure military grade weapons, including automatic assault rifles, body armor and mine resistant armored vehicles – essentially unarmed tanks. Police departments can even get their hands on military helicopters.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) runs the “Homeland Security Grant Program,” which in 2013 gave more than $900 million in counterterrorism funds to state and local police. According to a 2012 Senate report, this money has been used to purchase tactical vehicles, drones, and even tanks with little obvious benefit to public safety. And, according to ProPublica, “In 1994, the Justice Department and the Pentagon funded a five-year program to adapt military security and surveillance technology for local police departments that they would otherwise not be able to afford.”

By stripping state and local police of this military-grade gear, it makes them less likely to cooperate with the feds and removes incentive for partnerships. Bills like HB407 can serve as a tool to put the squeeze on the enforcement of unconstitutional laws by denying the warrior cops the feds need to enforce their “laws.”

HB407 was officially filed on Jan. 8. It must pass successfully through the House Municipal and County Government committee before it can receive a full vote on the state house floor.

ACTION ALERT

In New Hampshire: Support this bill by following all the steps at THIS LINK

For other states: Take action to push back against federal militarization of your police at this link.


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