Council members in Lebanon unanimously voted to approve purchasing and equipping semi-automatic rifles to all of their police officers Friday morning.
The ordinance passed on its second and final reading during a special called city council meeting. It will allow the Lebanon Police Department to purchase 50 assault rifles for the rest of its police force.
Currently, only the SWAT team and supervisors are equipped with a limited amount of rifles. The idea to make it mandatory for all of the officers to have a rifle has been talked about for years, but it was with the help of a city councilman that made it a reality.
“It’s just common sense to me,” Councilman Bernie Ash said. “Terrorists, drug dealers and common criminals have access to this type of equipment so if they have access, our policemen should have access too.”
Councilman Ash came up with the ordinance almost three weeks ago after seeing the shooting massacre in San Bernardino. Realizing the type of weaponry the officers in California were using, Ash approached the police department wondering if the city’s officers would be ready for a similar attack.
“In the 60's they had handguns, revolvers and a nightstick but that's not the world we live in anymore,” Ash said. “Police officers agreed with me that we needed assault rifles.”
The city will have to pay up to $45,000 for the guns and will require training for all of the officers. So far some officers are already trained to use a Beretta semiautomatic and a Bushmaster.
“Our tactics division is putting together a training program that is extensive,” Lebanon Police Spokesperson PJ Hardy said.
Each officer must go through the training program before they are allowed the new weapon. The department already goes through two firearm trainings and nearly 40 hours of additional service training every year.
“In a critical situation, our response has to be quick with the appropriate force--the lives of our officers and community depend on it,” Officer Hardy added.
The department will have to go through a bidding process for the rifles before they can start training. Officer Hardy is hopeful they will have the guns in the first part of 2016.
The department has 72 full-time and 4 part-time officers.
In Davidson County, Metro police officers were allowed to have personal rifles as long as they were approved by the department. They must undergo training with the rifle and qualify it with the police academy.
As of late December, there were 475 out of 1431 police officers in Davidson County that were equipped with a personal assault rifles.