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McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara on Tuesday asked county leaders to approve the purchase of 19 AR-15-style rifles to better arm sheriff’s deputies, saying they face a “very grave” threat from heavily armed criminals.
McNamara cited a February incident near the McLennan-Bosque county line where he said a deputy had to confront a heavily armed suspect with only a handgun. The suspect — armed with a handgun, a sawed-off shotgun and an AR-15 military-style rifle — was shooting into a house where a woman and her two children were hiding when the deputy convinced him to drop his weapons, McNamara said.
If the suspect had refused, the incident could have ended much more violently, he said.
“If we can’t provide security for our men and women out there on the front lines, we’re not going to be able to provide safety to our citizens,” McNamara told the commissioners court.
The item was not on commissioners’ agenda, so County Judge Scott Felton said they would vote on it next Tuesday.
The sheriff’s office would cover the $19,146 cost using its own budgeted funds, including $18,500 it received from an insurance claim after a driver ran into a department vehicle, McNamara said.
The purchase would be a step toward arming the office’s 40 patrol deputies with M4 Patrolman’s Carbine rifles. Deputies already carry handguns and shotguns, but McNamara said the shotguns aren’t suited for use at close range.
“It’s just a situation where a lot of the criminals are carrying these types of weapons, and we don’t want to be outgunned,” McNamara said in an interview.
Other counties, including Los Angeles, have purchased AR-15-style rifles to ensure their deputies are equipped to respond to threats, he said.
McNamara, a Republican elected in November, has been an outspoken gun-rights supporter and critic of federal proposals to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. He said Tuesday he continues to oppose an assault-weapons ban because criminals would ignore it.
Commissioner Lester Gibson, the court’s only Democrat, said he supports a federal assault-weapons ban but believes McNamara’s request is reasonable. If criminals are carrying the weapons, law enforcement officers should be too, he said.