Senator Murray Cosponsors Bipartisan Amendment to Stop Transfer of Tear Gas, Other Military Equipment to Police Departments

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), joined Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Rand Paul (R-KY), in cosponsoring an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, the country’s major defense spending authorization legislation, to reform the surplus military equipment transfer program—known as the “1033 program.” The program transfers weapons of war—including rifles, armored vehicles, and aircraft—to law enforcement agencies across the country. The amendment would limit the transfer of specific military equipment under the 1033 program, including combat vehicles, grenade launchers, and weaponized drones, and prohibit the use of transferred equipment against peaceful assembly. 

“Law enforcement in America should not be unleashing weapons of war against civilians, especially those exercising their Constitutional right to peacefully protest. People on the ground in Washington state and nationwide have said in order to address police brutality we need to reverse the militarization of law enforcement, and this amendment is a step in the right direction,” Senator Murray said.

The 1033 program has resulted in an increasingly militarized law enforcement, which has led to more prevalent police violence. According to a Research and Politics study, there is “a positive and statistically significant relationship between 1033 transfers and fatalities from officer-involved shootings across all models.” Additionally, a 2018 policy study by R Street notes that another reason for an increase in violence by a militarized law enforcement is that law enforcement is more likely to use military equipment when they have access to it, rather than other more appropriate and traditional law enforcement tools. 

Specifically, the amendment would:

  • Limit the transfer of specific military equipment under the 1033 program, including:
    • armor-piercing firearms and ammunition, bayonets, grenade launchers, grenades, and explosives,
    • tracked combat vehicles,
    • weaponized drones,
    • tear gas, and
    • items in the Federal Supply Class of banned items.
  • Prohibit the use of transferred equipment against First Amendment-protected activities, such as the right peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances.
  • Require recipients of equipment to certify that the equipment is not surplus to their needs, and require the return of surplus equipment.
  • Increase transparency and accountability for equipment transfers, including:
    • accounting for all transferred property,
    • creating and maintaining a regularly updated website that displays all the property transferred under the 1033 program and which law enforcement agencies have received the property, and
    • requiring compliance with the requirements of this amendment.
  • Reestablish the Interagency Law Enforcement Working Group for military equipment transfers.

In the wake of nationwide protests following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Manuel Ellis and other unarmed Black people, including at the hands of law enforcement, Senator Murray has been outspoken on the need for structural change to end police brutality and systemic racism in the United States. Senator Murray is a proud cosponsor of the Justice in Policing Act, which would take additional action to limit the transfer of military weaponry and equipment to police departments, as well as ban chokeholds nationally, create a national use of force standard, end qualified immunity, and take other steps to address police brutality and structural racism in policing.###

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