‘We’ve got to go and buy some new rifles’: US army, police face backlash over gun sales
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The US Army is set to announce that it is cancelling plans to buy up to 600,000 rifles and ammunition, a decision that critics say will allow the military to expand its arsenal, which they say has become increasingly militarised.
The move comes as tensions between the US and Russia have spiked over the conflict in eastern Ukraine, with the Kremlin accusing the US of meddling in its internal affairs.
The announcement comes amid an ongoing debate in Congress about how to curb gun violence, with lawmakers weighing whether to rein in the US military’s capacity to purchase weapons.
Congressional hearings are set to begin next week in response to a bill that would require the military and police to submit to more oversight by Congress.
Congresswoman Judy Chu, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said in a statement on Wednesday that she was “proud” to see the Army and the White House working together to ensure the public has “the safest, most effective, and most affordable weapons at their disposal”.
She also called for more accountability from the military, saying “the White House should do more to make sure our military is doing its job and is doing it the right way”.
“The US Army has been doing the right thing in dealing with this,” Chu said in an interview.
“It has taken the right steps, including the cancellation of some of its weapons sales.
But there are many other things we could do to ensure that we’re not sending a message to our sons and daughters in uniform that they can get into the arms of a rogue regime”.
The military, which is the largest single contributor to the US defence budget, has long faced criticism from lawmakers for its role in the war in eastern Europe and the Syrian civil war.
The Department of Defense has repeatedly argued that its acquisition of weapons is needed to deter Russia and China, which have long threatened to invade the US territory of Guam.
The US has deployed thousands of troops to the Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia, and has launched exercises with Russian forces.
In October, the Pentagon announced that it would spend $600m (£445m) on purchasing and training US forces in Latvia, Estonia and Poland, but many of the US forces will not deploy to the region for years, and there is no timeline for the military’s arrival.
Chu said the military needs to act as “a responsible actor” and be “very clear that we are not going to get in the way of our military”.
“I’m very proud that the military is moving forward, and I’m very confident that the US is going to take a very, very strong stand on what we need to do to prevent that from happening again,” she said.
The House Armed Services Committee has already heard testimony from a number of military veterans, including former soldiers who spoke out about the impact of the war on their service.
The hearing will focus on how to combat the threat posed by the Russian military, and how to increase the number of American military personnel in the region.
“The Russians are using military strength to undermine democracies, and that has nothing to do with the fact that we’ve got some guys that are in the military,” said former US Air Force Lt Col John W. McManus, who has been outspoken about the military presence in the Baltic countries.
“We’re in a state of war.
We’re in this with a Russian adversary that’s engaged in what they consider to be an aggressive act of aggression.”
He said the US should “work together” with Russia and the European Union, which he described as a “toxic alliance” that has undermined the security of countries in the Baltics.
“This is not about protecting your family or your neighborhood or your state,” he said.
“You’re going to be shot at, and you’re going the other way.”
He added that the American military “is not going anywhere”.
“We’ve done everything right,” McManuses told reporters on Wednesday.
“I just think it’s time to take that step of looking at the military community in a more responsible, more transparent way and getting the message out to our service members and our military that we don’t need to be in that toxic alliance.”
In addition to the Pentagon, lawmakers have also expressed concerns over the military being able to purchase more guns.
Rep. Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Republican who was the target of a shooting rampage last month, said on Tuesday that he was considering introducing legislation to stop the military from buying new weapons.
“My intention is to introduce a bill to stop them from purchasing new weapons,” Scalise said.
‘Wishful thinking’ While many politicians have been calling for a ban on military-style weapons, many have not yet acted on the issue.
Earlier this month, a US official told reporters that lawmakers should “wait and see” how the military will deal with the increasing number of civilians being killed in shootings by suspected criminals and “stunned” officers
The US Army is set to announce that it is cancelling plans to buy up to 600,000 rifles and ammunition,…