U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents complained that they have been stripped of thousands of M4 carbines because of a safety concern that could have been addressed in the field.
Agents have been forced to share weapons, a practice that is itself unsafe because each agent’s weapon is personalized for individual use, a process called “zeroing in.”
“You don’t want a weapon that is zeroed in to someone else,” Shawn Moran of the National Border Patrol Council told Fox News. “You don’t share guns and you don’t share needles because both could end with people dying.”
But CBP Deputy Chief Ron Bitiello told Fox News that keeping the guns in the field without addressing the safety concern would be even more dangerous.
“Our top priority is to make sure our agents are safe. They will be like new when they are refurbished,” he said.
CBP tested over 5,000 of the agency’s 16,300 M4 carbines and found a potential for failure in over 2,000 of them. It then started pulling the weapons out of the field to refurbish them.
But some agents wonder why, if the weapons are as dangerous as their leadership said, the manufacturer has not issued a recall.
“We’d like to know why the rifles were recalled [by CBP] and when they will be returned,” Moran told FoxNews. “Our agency is trying to figure out why they were pulled.”
“We work in areas and situations where having these rifles could be a matter of life or death,” he added.
Jeff Prather, a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent who now runs an independent law-enforcement training facility in Tucson called the Warrior School, told Fox that he used the M4 throughout his career and the problems with the weapon cited by the Border Patrol are probably overstated.
“All you need to do is pull out the old firing pin and put in the new one and the rifle is ready to go,” he said.
But Bitiello disagreed.
“It may be easy to replace a firing pin, but these are things that should be done by a professional,” he said.
Prather agreed that agents’ concerns, which he said some agents had shared with him directly, are reasonable. He cited the notoriously well-armed criminal cartels that agents risk facing every day.
“If they are less prepared, they are going to be less inclined to engage,” Prather told Fox. “It’s a real concern, especially if they are telling me about it.”
So, to sum up: a CBP deputy chief said he wants to keep his agents safe by disarming them, the same deputy chief thinks his agents are not “professional” enough to replace a firing pin — a two-minute operation at most, and the end result is a CBP that may be less prepared to engage those attempting to enter the country illegally.
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