By Keith Eddings
---- — LAWRENCE — Police Chief John Romero wants cruisers to carry high-powered, semi-automatic rifles so police have the firepower to confront a gunman bent on the kind of mass murder that occurred in Newtown, Conn., in December.
“Whether at a workplace, a movie theater or a school, potentially these things can happen anywhere,” Romero said yesterday about the recent mass murders by gunmen in Connecticut, Colorado, Arizona and other states. “Unfortunately, what we’re seeing is that the individuals responsible for these terrible crimes are armed with automatic weapons. We want to put (Lawrence police) on an even keel with those individuals that they may be up against.”
Romero noted that locally three masked men armed with at least one automatic weapon held an employee of a Union Street market hostage inside the building for several hours in a standoff with police following a botched robbery attempt on Jan. 18. The men eventually surrendered and no one was injured.
The 11 rifles Romero is requesting have more range, firepower and velocity than the handguns most Lawrence police carry, he said. The bullets they fire can pierce body armor, he said. Bullets fired by most handguns cannot pierce that armor, he said.
Romero is asking for $15,000 to buy the 11 rifles and supporting equipment, including gun racks and improved optics, from Windham Weaponry of Windham, Maine. The rifles’ magazines would carry 30 rounds.
On Tuesday, the City Council referred the request to its budget committee. Committee Chairman Daniel Rivera said he believes the money would be better spent helping hire another officer.