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For less than $50, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office expects to equip its deputies with military assault rifles.

Sgt. John Wood, a training officer with the Sheriff’s Office, said the department anticipates approval for a federal program that provides surplus M-16 rifles to law enforcement for only the cost of shipping. He said the weapons, which are fully automatic, were once used by the military.

“When we get into that program, we will have authorization to render those weapons semi-automatic,” Wood said. “Basically, we would take out the automatic parts. The last thing we want is for an officer to have the ability to spray and pray.”

The term “spray and pray,” refers to firing an automatic weapon toward an enemy in long bursts, without aiming, only hoping to hit the right target.

For a few years, trained deputies have been authorized to carry AR-15s, a nonmilitary semi-automatic weapon. But to do so, a deputy had to shell out about $1,500 of his own money to buy it.

Wood said equipping all deputies with AR-15s is cost prohibitive for the Sheriff’s Office.

“I would say that most deputies carry their own AR-15s at work,” he said.

The rifle gives deputies a greater ability to protect themselves and residents, he said.

The only difference between an AR-15 and an M-16 rifle is the automatic feature, Wood said. Semi-automatic weapons, which require a trigger pull for each bullet fired, give officers that split second to ascertain what’s going on prior to pulling the trigger and firing 20 rounds down range, he said.

Source: Leeanna Walker and Mike Jones for The Associated Press via NECN.

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