When I saw “Rocket Launchers Turned in During LAPD Gun Buyback” flash across my twitter stream Thursday I had to check it out. It’s not every day that a rocket launcher is paraded around outside a military base, let alone by police who picked one up for a gift card.
So of course, I clicked and read the story, written by Dennis Romero at LA Weekly.
“Cops picked up two — count ’em two — rocket launchers!,” Romero writes.
In the story, photos show the police chief prominently holding up an AT-4 rocket launcher, which fires an 84mm projectile and is mostly used in anti-tank operations.
The problem is that it’s not a rocket launcher. It doesn’t launch rockets. It is a field handling trainer, as illustrated by the band around it along with “TRAINER” emblazoned across the side. Trainer AT-4s are non-functioning props, used to show soldiers how the weapon operates minus the big boom.
It is, quite literally, a long, green fibreglass tube that does nothing.
Instead of a weapon, it’s a paperweight the Los Angeles Police Department aquired in an event staffed with public employees. The LAPD, and much of the media, kind of got punked.
Romero goes on to write that they “propel rocket grenades, but the official called them ‘non-working’ because they did not have the ‘projectiles.'”
Another thing that I know firsthand — having myself fired two AT-4 rockets in the Marine Corps — is that working AT-4 launchers are fire and forget. They are not issued in the military in the traditional sense as a rifle or pistol would be, but instead as a single round of ammunition. They are one shot weapons. If it doesn’t have a projectile, then its no longer a weapon.
Once it is fired, it doesn’t ever get reloaded. It gets thrown in a dumpster, or sometimes even taken home as a souvenir.
The turn-in of these expended rockets is the equivalent of me picking up empty shell casings that have been fired, and maybe even the ammunition box they came in, and turning it in for a free gift card.
The LAPD did end up getting legitimate weapons: over 900 handguns and almost 700 rifles, as LA Weekly reports. Officials have said that they will soon be destroyed. But parading around with photos of useless tubes doesn’t add to the case for gun-control, it makes you look like you don’t know what you are talking about.
Finally, they are trying to investigate the origins, and the people who turned in the AT-4’s didn’t receive a gift card.
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