Law enforcement agencies are upgrading their firepower to deal with what they say is the increasing presence of high-powered weapons on the streets, reports USA Today. Chief Scott Knight of Chaska, Mn., chairman of the firearms committee of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, says an informal survey of 20 departments showed that since 2004, all have either added weapons to officers’ patrol units or have replaced existing weaponry with military-style arms.
Knight says the upgrades have occurred since a federal ban on certain assault weapons expired in September 2004. The ban, passed in 1994, in part prohibited domestic gunmakers from producing semi-automatic weapons and ammunition dispensers holding more than 10 rounds. Ron Stucker of the Orange County, Fl., Sheriff’s Department, says the department has been rearming many of its deputies with assault weapons. He says deputies are “frequently” encountering assault weapons in local robberies and during simple traffic stops. Weapons seizures in Orlando have increased by 26 percent since 2004. In Houston, where homicides were up as much as 25 percent in 2006, Police Chief Harold Hurtt says the AK-47 assault rifle has become “kind of a weapon of choice” for warring gangs, major drug distributors ,and immigrant smugglers in a place that has become a major transit point for criminals.