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Lifting Militarized Equipment Ban Likely Means Little for Kentucky and Beyond

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last week plans to lift the ban on giving certain types of military equipment to local governments. But the policy change is unlikely to have major consequences in Kentucky and other states.

Sessions told members of the Fraternal Order of Police in Nashville that the move would ensure that local law enforcement could get lifesaving gear.

But the Obama-era ban only applied to major pieces of military equipment like vehicles that have tank-style tracks, guns with ammunition greater than .50 caliber, grenade launchers and bayonets.

“They were really inconsequential,” said Pete Kraska, chair of Eastern Kentucky University's Graduate School of Justice Studies.

Between 2006 and 2014, Kentucky law enforcement agencies received - at no cost - nearly $49 million, socks, guns armored vehicles and more from the U.S. Department of Defense.

But President Obama’s restrictions didn’t apply to the great majority of the equipment that Kentucky law enforcement had received.

Kraska says the Trump administration’s proposed expansion is mostly a symbolic gesture.

“Now we have a situation where we have another layer of symbolic politics that wasn’t real to begin with,” Kraska said.

But before the ban, several Kentucky law enforcement agencies did receive dozens of bayonets and scabbards, which will once again be allowed.

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