Law Enforcement Still Finds It Easy to Buy Weapons Despite Some Manufacturer Protests

Despite protests, Feds can buy products on GSA web site, local law enforcement reports no impact.

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Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas is one of several Republican senators threatening to filibuster proposed gun reform legislation.

Over the last month and a half, dozens of gun companies have said they planned to restrict or cut off altogether their sales of firearms or ammunition to law enforcement in states with restrictive gun laws, closing what pro-gun activists call the "police loophole." It's a move that was partly protest and partly dictated by law, as new gun control measures in some states technically prohibit police from possessing certain guns. (The New York Safe Act, for example, failed to write in exemptions for police officers.)

Either way, the move by some gun and firearms accessory companies garnered "atta boys!" from lovers of the Second Amendment. Thousands of people commented positively on the sales ban on social media. And Tennessee-based gun company Barrett wrote on its site after declaring they'd restrict sales to certain law enforcement agencies that "elected state officials of New York, having been sworn to protect our Constitution, have instead committed an offense against it and their citizens, by stripping inalienable rights duly protected and guaranteed under the Second Amendment."

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The only problem: the sales ban hasn't changed much.

For one thing, some of the largest gun manufacturers in the country, such as Smith & Wesson and Remington Arms, haven't said they'd stop selling to law enforcement. And local law enforcement officers reached by U.S. News said they hadn't seen any impact of the sales ban at all.

Colonel Phil Kasten at the Carroll County Sheriffs Office in Maryland, a state with among the country's most restrictive gun laws, said the manufacturer ban hasn't hurt his department. "No problems at all," he said.

The National Tactical Officers Association, which facilitates communications between local SWAT units across the country, says its members also haven't seen any significant difference.

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"Through some of our vendors, some of the smaller gun manufacturers [are] not selling in those states that have restrictions as far as automatic weapons," said association executive director Mark Lomax. "But as far as major gun manufacturers, we haven't heard anything."

Lomax said he had mostly heard about the gun companies' protest through the media.

In New York, where the recently passed New York Safe Act technically prohibits police from possessing certain guns, the NYPD recently told USA Today it also couldn't point to any real change.

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But perhaps most telling, some of the bigger gun companies who said they would limit or cut off sales to law enforcement are actively selling to law enforcement through the federal General Services Administration Advantage web site, a sort of Amazon.com purchasing site for the federal government.

In February, Texas-based gun company LaRue Tactical wrote on its Facebook page that it planned to "limit all sales [to law enforcement] to what law-abiding citizens residing in their districts can purchase or possess," despite the impact the company believed it would have on sales.

In March, Arizona-based Vltor posted a similar message, but said it had decided to stop selling to law enforcement out of support for the second amendment. "As patriots for the freedom of the United States, Vltor Weapons Systems firmly believes in and advocates for the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens," the company wrote. "Therefore ... Vltor Weapons Systems is implementing a No-Sale Policy for any states imposing legislation that infringes on the rights protected by the Second Amendment. This no-sale policy is applicable to any law enforcement."

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The only problem: both companies are selling gun parts and accessories, such as uppers, hand blocks, hand guards, and stocks on the GSA purchasing site where law enforcement agencies can buy gear for their officers.

Neither company responded to request for comment from U.S. News about the sales.

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook or reach her at eflock@usnews.com.