U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (PA-14) today questioned Congressional witnesses about the wisdom of allowing the public sale of surplus military equipment that is most likely to be used by criminals.
"Richard Poplawski was wearing a military grade bullet-proof vest during the recent shoot-out with the Pittsburgh Police that left three officers dead," Congressman Doyle observed. "There's no legitimate civilian need for such equipment, but its widespread availability puts law-abiding citizens and local law enforcement officers in serious danger."
On April 4, 2009, Richard Poplawski ambushed and fatally shot three police officers responding to a domestic dispute complaint in the Stanton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh. He continued firing at other police officers for several hours before finally surrendering to police. During the standoff he wore a military grade bulletproof vest, and he only surrendered after being wounded in the leg.
Congressman Doyle questioned witnesses at a hearing on the commercial sale of military technologies held today by the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. The hearing showcased the results of a Government Accountability Office investigation which concluded that current federal laws governing the sale of such technology put the public at unjustified risk.
The GAO report found that sensitive dual-use and military technology can be easily and legally purchased from manufacturers and distributors within the United States and illegally exported without detection
"There is no reason why criminals should be able to buy bulletproof vests for use on our streets or why terrorists overseas should be able to buy them and use them against us," Congressman Doyle said. "For the sake of the brave Americans who keep our country and communities safe, we must do more to keep such equipment out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, and rogue nations."
Congressman Doyle said "I believe that greater restrictions on the sale of military technology to the public are clearly called for, but that's only one part of what we need to do to reduce the epidemic of violence in our country. First and foremost, we clearly need tougher gun control laws. Reinstatement of the federal assault gun ban would limit the availability of weapons like the AK-47 that Richard Poplawski used to kill officers Kelly, Mayhle, and Sciullo - and more thorough background checks and better records could prevent unstable individuals like Mr. Poplawski from securing such powerful weapons."