Does the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Really Need Assault Rifles?

Sunday, December 07, 2014
(graphic: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Attention New Jersey fishermen: Don’t forget to renew your fishing licenses. If you do, you might find yourselves staring at the muzzle of an assault rifle.


The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife is now the proud owner of 16 M-14 automatic rifles, supplied by the Department of Defense’s 1033 program, which has given millions of dollars’ worth of surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies across the country.


The state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) defended the acquisition while refusing to discuss why fish and game officers need assault rifles. “This is a fully engaged police agency that patrols more than 800,000 acres in all 21 counties, plus our waterways, and faces a wide-ranging variety of policing issues,” DEP spokesman Larry Ragonese told the Newark Star-Ledger. “There are a variety of tactical considerations as to why these rifles are issued, and for their potential use. But we will not engage in a public dialogue in the media to detail our operational procedures.”


The Fish and Wildlife division is one of many in New Jersey and around the country to receive military equipment for policing that traditionally required no such firepower. Democratic State Senator Nia Gill requested the release of information on surplus military equipment distributed to agencies in her state. As have others, Gill questioned whether the heavy weaponry is necessary. “Military style equipment is more appropriate for a war zone than in community policing,” she said.


Some agencies are finding out that their wish lists for military equipment exceeded their capacity to use it. Bayonets, trucks and even grenade launchers have been returned to the federal government.


Meanwhile, if you’re in doubt whether that fish you just caught in New Jersey waters is big enough to keep, throw it back. The Division of Fish and Wildlife is loaded for bear.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Inventory of Military Gear Acquired By N.J. Police Provides New Ammunition for Critics (by Ted Sherman, Newark Star-Ledger)

Federal Agencies with Guns: Weather Service, Social Security, Railroad Retirement Board (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


john 9 years ago
nevermind. should have checked first, they can be set to full auto.
john 9 years ago
Are those truly "automatic" rifles as stated? I'm guessing once again they are semiautomatic made to sound much fiercer by calling them automatic. I'm not a fan of military gear going to police departments, but I am a fan of proper journalism.
AC 9 years ago
Why does New Jersey need a Division of Fish and Wildlife? Dead fish don't require much management, and cockroaches and rats aren't exactly wildlife.

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