Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

Why does a Minneapolis suburb need 60 M16A1 machine guns?

Written By: Bob - Jul• 09•12

The police department of Coon Rapids, MI MN (population 61,476) is getting sixty M16A1 assault rifles (the real, military selective-fire versions capable of unleashing bursts of  bullets) from the Department of Defense.

Half of the weapons will go into the cars of patrol officers and detectives.

Can someone explain to me why officers of an affluent (medium household income, $55,550), peaceful ( just 5 murders between 2000-2010) suburb should equip their sure-to-be-undertrained officers with machine guns for street patrol?

Are they anticipating lutefisk riots?

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. JTwig says:

    I hate to be one of “those” type of people, but you have the state as MI (which is Michigan).

    As for the story. Why does it seem we keep giving law enforcement more and more firepower, at the same time we keep lowering their accountability?

  2. Indigo Red says:

    It goes back to the 1997 North Hollywood Bank of America shootout. I was living in Tustin (pop. 75,500, median income $76,200, between 1999 and 2010 there have been 1-2 murders/yr with the only crime category with a significant decrease being assault down from 188 in 1999 to 62 in 2010), Orange County, CA just south of LA then and within the year all TPD squad cars had an M16A1 in the trunk. I’ve seen TPD use the weapons twice – when they arrested the Islamic terrorist at his ranchstlye suburban home just a mile from my home and when they arrested the kid with the AK and homemade explosives in the apartment across the street. A cop took a position on my front porch. Both times, I was fairly glad the good guys were not outgunned.

    • Jayne Cobb says:

      hmm. I see your point… but I can’t help but feel that when Cops are being issued Machine guns while Citizens are barred from owning them, that the good guys ARE being outgunned.

    • Divemedic says:

      The north Hollywood shootout was not a problem needing machine guns to solve. One cop with an old surplus M-1 Garand could have ended it. The problem was that 9mm handguns and Shotguns won’t penetrate body armor.
      Using the Hollywood shootout as justification for police machine guns would mean that the next robbery involving an armored car would spur cops getting the police choppers armed with Hellfire missiles.

  3. Mike Brill says:

    A few points; the article’s writer knows nothing about fire arms. For example, “such rifles shoot a .223 round, which is a considerable upgrade in ballistic power from the department’s existing .40 caliber rifles,”. The .40 caliber mentioned here is for a hand gun not a rifle.

    Also, “The cost of upgrading the rifles, estimated to be $800 per weapon, will be offset by selling 24 of the department’s H&K MP5 rifles”. The MP5 shoots a pistil round, not a rifle round.

    Now about a small nitpick on your title,”M16A1 machine guns”. The M16A1 is not a machine gun. Machine guns are crew served weapons normally mounted on vehicles. The M16A1 is an automatic assault rifle.

    Now, why are police departments arming themselves with assault rifles? That is in response to the North Hollywood shootout on February 28, 1997. Officers faced two men wearing full body armor and caring automatic AK-47 assault rifles with only their side arms and shotguns.

    The officer will have to qualify on the weapon before it is issued to them and even then the weapons spend most of their time gathering dust in the vehicles.

    Officers take it for the same reason people have CCW’s, you don’t know if you’ll ever need it but when you do you do not want it to turn into a would of/ could of moment.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • Divemedic says:

      Under Federal law, any weapon that fires more than one shot per operation of the trigger is a machine gun. Machine gun is correct in this case.

    • Firehand says:

      The .40S&W cartridge has also been used in a Ruger carbine, and I believe the MP5 has also been chambered in it; so it’s not only found in pistols.

      Yes, the reporter errs in calling a subgun a rifle; not the worst mistake of the kind we’ve seen.

  4. RRRoark says:

    As long time military as well as long time reserve officer of a Metro Police department, I can testify that it takes ten full days (at least assuming a level of general firearms competency that I have not witnessed in patrol officers) and thousands of rounds to train competency in a fully automatic assault rifle, and I’ll guarantee in the current fiscal environment the city doesn’t have the resources for either.The increase in the number of unaimed bullets flying around will wreak havoc beyond any achievable evacuation area. I await the televised scene of an officer holding one of these over the hood of his car while he takes cover and firing blindly in the general direction of the “bad guys” and learning later that a bullet pierced a window (or a siding/insulation/drywall exterior wall) and killed someone a 300 to 400 yards away from the scene.

  5. Stretch says:

    Given the growing numbers of Somali “refugees” in the Twin Cities I’d want my PD to have the fire power to keep them out of the suburbs.

  6. RegT says:

    When I worked for the California Highway Patrol in the northernmost part of the state, our officers patrolled large area of highway far from any backup, and in country where a lot of folks carried rifles in their vehicles (for hunting and to kill varmints attacking their livestock). The department consequently issued rifles – semi-automatic rifles, not machine guns (ask David Olofson what a machine gun is, by Federal definition. Hint: it is a malfunctioning rifle which fires more than one bullet when ATF agents keep playing with it until it fires more than once).

    The cops do NOT need fully-automatic weaponry. None of the rifles issued to cops should be fully automatic, save for certain very high-risk SWAT operations against known violent felons, not people SWAT is simply worried might react violently. Not for usual SWAT use, and definitely not for street cop use, that’s for sure.

  7. Kathy from Kansas says:

    I love our military for the most part, but I don’t trust most city cops as far as I can throw them. This story makes my stomach turn.

  8. Mikey says:

    The reference to “lutefisk riots” was a mystery to me so I called up a reference on Wikipedia and found this:

    “Quote from Garrison Keillor’s book Lake Wobegon Days:

    Every Advent we entered the purgatory of lutefisk, a repulsive gelatinous fishlike dish that tasted of soap and gave off an odor that would gag a goat. We did this in honor of Norwegian ancestors, much as if survivors of a famine might celebrate their deliverance by feasting on elm bark. I always felt the cold creeps as Advent approached, knowing that this dread delicacy would be put before me and I’d be told, “Just have a little.” Eating a little was like vomiting a little, just as bad as a lot.”

    Maybe they do need to be heavily armed?

  9. Divemedic says:

    The good news is that you know where to get some machine guns, if you need one for some reason. Just look in the cop cars.

  10. JTwig says:

    As a pack leader for Cub Scouts we tour the local police department yearly. We’ve been doing this for years, and this was one of the things they showed us this year. Every officer carries an M4 style rifle in their trunk with six 30-round magazines, in addition to their traditional sidearm and shotgun. I didn’t ask if they were semi or fully-automatic.

    I moved to the city from the country about a decade ago, and I’ve actually seen them being carried three times (along with full body armor and helmet). Fortunately I’ve never seen them being used.

  11. J says:

    Meh, they’ll just miss faster. Machine guns are highly overrated in most tactical engagements.

  12. Tony B says:

    I can’t think of a single scenario, including that North Hollywood Shootout, where it would be a good idea to have cops firing full auto.

  13. LSBeene says:

    In response to TonyB:

    I concur. MAYBE burst, and that even then in highly special situations – but full auto? No, can’t think of a one.

    Even on burst, unless you are CLOSE – most of your shots will be, at best, supressing fire, and not aimed shots.

    As they say “you’re just drilling holes in the air” – and bullets ALWAYS come back to Earth.

    Sure, full auto is a kick in the pants and fun, but unless you’re out in open country, actively trying to gain fire superiority by supression ….. whiskey tango foxtrot. Heck no you won’t use full auto.

    And, despite what the ATF may or may not define a 3 round burst or full auto M-16 style rifle : it’s not a machine gun.

    As another person mentioned, and as I have learned in the military … a “gun” whatever “gun” it may be is a crew served weapon. Fully automatic machine gun(i.e. 240B), light cannon / grenade launcher (40mm BOFORS / MK-19), or full cannon (105mm) – those are “guns”. Crew served is the discriminator.

    Now, if the ATF in their (ahem) infinite (and political) wisdom decides to call them machine guns … honestly is irrelevant.

    As the old question goes:

    Q: “If you count the tail as a leg, how many legs does a dog have?”

    A: “Four. Just because you call a tail a leg doesn’t make it one.”


    Just sayin’

  14. david7134 says:

    I used to work the ER in New Orleans (1970). The copse had tommy guns then and would come into the crowded and big ER chasing bad guys (Big Charity). It was not unusual for them to open up with lead flying everywhere. Patients, nurses and doctors would hit the floor. Then I witnessed several shoot outs were cops used machine guns and most often the people injuried were not the bad guys but other cops and bystanders. There is no justification for cops having big guns. A well place sniper will do more.

  15. LSBeene says:

    To add to what David7134 said:

    A M-4 Carbine with a good CQC (Close Quarters Combat) sight (a red dot aiming reticle – generally faster to acquire a target than iron sights) would be enough.

    To be honest, and this is purely my “like”, I’d get it chambered in 6.8mm or 7.62 (an AR-10), but my point, which I know I take forever in getting to, lol, is that this would be more than enough.

    Take down targets up to 300+ meters, would penetrate body armor made for taking handgun bullets, and can be used in close quarters and immediately for medium range engagements easily.

    I mean, that would be my pick, but probably because I “grew up with” them (military member).

    Not to denigrate others’ choices or preference mind you.

    Full auto though – yea, not so much.


    • bryan says:

      they have all been converted to single fire semi auto m-4’s with no option for full auto or even burst for that matter!

  16. Jeff Hoser says:

    Been two decades since I frequented the MSP area but things can’t have changed so much as to require suburban street cops to tote this sort of firepower ! I’m also inclined to agree with others opinions even with the relatively light .223 “spray and pray” in an suburban/urban setting is likely to create a lot of collateral damage/casualities.

    Northwood, CA was the exception, not the rule, for bank robbers. And, IMO, even in that instance the ubiquitous 12 ga. “riot gun” with slugs would – IMO – have settled the gunfight.

    Can’t see the “justification” far arming LEOs in urban/suburban settings with this sort of arm. A lone deputy far from aid along our border or in the vast reaches of the West, perhaps. But IMO a semi can perform the same task with almost the same RPM driven by sufficient adrenaline. >MW

  17. Les says:

    My goodness, such trashing of the police! Sounds like simple jealousy. You folks are just upset (as am I) that you can’t go to the DCM and get one of these rifles after a match or two. Face it, folks, blame Roosevelt!

    This was a probably a cheap way to provide their officers with an AR15 type rifle, and I’ll bet they’ve been told to never ever use full auto. Nice to see supervision try to take care of their people. As far as needing rifles, you don’t need a fire extinguisher until you do, and then when seconds count, backup is just minutes away. How often do you really need a pistol? Just when you do, right?

    As far as training, how much did a 2 yr draftee sent to Vietnam get, before being armed with a M16? Most folks there just used the M16 in semi, although some fired off everything they had in full auto. Depended on a Unit’s fire discipline, didn’t it?

    How many of these officers talked about so disparagingly are veterans? How many pay to go to Gunsite, Frontsight etc. on their own?. How many are members of the NRA? You don’t know.
    If the training and standards of police in your community are so bad why don’t you insist it be better?

    Just recently, everyone (who-ever that is) concluded that the 5.56 was not any more penetrative than most pistol rounds and buckshot but is more accurate, thus the idea that police should have these carbines or rifles. They do not feel the same about 3006 rounds in an urban environment. It is far easier to be accurate with a carbine or rifle than a pistol, so less rounds off target. Is buckshot target sensing?

    Police are like the people you work with, some are the nicest people in the world, some are not. Some read the Constitution and do their best to uphold it, some just get by in the class. Some work very hard, some don’t. Considering the number of armed Officers, there are very few mistakes. Quality control in local community is up to that community. I suspect everyone, including the commentors here and myself, could use more training.

    Best to you all.

    • bryan says:

      Well said Les! And just an FYI, 30 of the m-16’s have been converted to a semi auto m-4 with no burts or full auto feature. The rest are to be used for spare parts, and will never see the street. Thanks for the support! See my post directly below yours for further. Please note, the condescending tone was not meant for you!

  18. bryan says:

    1st: they are not “machine guns” as some have called them. A “machine gun” is generally a crew served weapon that is belt fed.

    2nd: They have been converted to a “semi automatic” M-4 rifle. By “semi” I mean one pull of the trigger means one bullet down range. The old MP-5’S had two round burst. That is not an option on these.

    3rd: They were used to replace the discontinued 16 year old MP-5 rifles that were difficult to find replacement parts for.

    4th: They have the same rate of fire as the MP-5 on semi auto. The big difference is that now a target can be effectivly engaged past 75 yards without having to “lob” the rounds in.

    5th: They are far far more accurate than the old mp-5, and allow even the weakist shot to be accurate.

    Finally: It is always wise to reserve judgment until you have reviewed at least some of the facts. Many of these “opinions” are far fetched with no actual facts to support them. Just wild unfounded opinions about a bunch of jack boot thugs running around spraying “machine gun” bullets around. Before you throw out an opinion, please, make sure it is an educated one. Spreading mis-information like this is not only irresponsible, but possibly dangerous.

    Cant thank you enough for your time.