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Windsor Brings in the Heavy Artillery

IN THE WAKE of the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo., leaders in Windsor, Sonoma County's youngest town, this month voted to equip each officer in the Windsor's small police force with semiautomatic assault rifles.

The tiny town (which will celebrate its seventh birthday next month) will become one of the first in California to provide its officers with such high-powered weapons. Windsor taxpayers will foot the almost $22,000 bill for the weapons and related training.

With its population of just 20,000 and not known as a high-crime area, critics are questioning the suburb's rationale in providing its officers with 14 AR-15 military-style rifles (the civilian version of Colt's fully automatic M-16 military rifle).

"We pay for the police cars and the bulletproof vests. [The rifles] will just be another piece of equipment to allow officers to do their job," counters Mayor Lynn Morehouse, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the guns. "Crime doesn't care what size your city is."

Morehouse says the rifles are just part of a "multipronged approach to law enforcement," which will include funding a school resource officer.

Officers in Windsor's 16-member police department claim the assault weapons will offer greater flexibility and useful local firepower when SWAT teams may not be able to quickly respond to crisis situations.

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From the July 1-7, 1999 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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