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Gilford police invited to carry their own semi-automatic rifles on patrol

By BEA LEWIS
Union Leader Correspondent

January 14. 2018 8:44PM
Gilford police have joined law enforcement agencies nationwide in adding rifles to their lineup of weapons. The AR style rifles are chambered in 5.56 mm the same round used by NATO forces. 



GILFORD - A newly adopted policy allows police officers to use their own semi-automatic rifles on the job, provided the weapons pass inspection by a department firearms instructor.

Police Chief Anthony Bean Burpee said an AR-15 rifle can cost $1,000 to $1,200 when outfitted with optics, he said.

If officers provide their own, it keeps the town from having to buy one, he said. And officers who use their personal rifle are likely to practice with it during their own time, augmenting their paid department training, Bean Burpee said.

The department has 18 sworn officers and 10 rifles, with the weapons assigned to each patrol vehicle as opposed to an individual officer.

Bean Burpee said he believes officers should be armed to respond to a worst-case scenario, noting the town is home to an 8,300-seat concert venue.

The chief said he believes the policy change is in the best interest of public and officer safety. Bean Burpee said he hasn’t heard any public concerns voiced since the proposed policy was discussed during a meeting with selectmen last month.

So far, no there have been no takers in the department, the chief said.

Nationally the trend in law enforcement is switching from the shotgun platform to a carbine due to the increase in deadly confrontations, Bean Burpee said.

A rifle has greater accuracy and range than a handgun or shotgun, he said.

A drawback of the policy that could factor into an officer’s decision whether to carry their own rifle is that in an officer-involving shooting, the rifle would be seized as evidence.

Tuftonboro Police Chief Andy Shagoury, who also serves as president of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, said there is a psychological impact when a gun is confiscated.

“If you take an officer’s gun it feels like he has done something wrong,” said Shagoury.

If a department-issued handgun is taken as evidence, a replacement is issued, he said.

Shagoury said the shift to rifles started 20 years ago.

He pointed to the growing number of former soldiers joining the ranks of law enforcement. He said those with a military background are used to the platform.

The 5.56-caliber round the AR-15 rifle fires can pierce body armor, but doesn’t penetrate building materials like sheetrock or the windshield of a car, Shagoury said.

While the shotgun is not extinct in law enforcement, Shagoury said, rifles have less recoil. Ammunition is less expensive, allowing officers to practice longer, he noted.


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