Law enforcement arming up with new AR-15's a year after Hesston shooting

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HARVEY COUNTY, Kan. The Newton Police Department and Harvey County Sheriff's Office are waiting on new Sig Sauer AR-15 rifles. It's a response to the Hesston mass shooting nearly one year ago, that killed three and hurt 14.

Sheriff Chad Gay says some deputies responded to the shooting with a 15-year-old rifle, facing a shooter, with an AK-47.Newton Police Chief Eric Murphy says some officers went into the excel building, armed with only their handguns.

That's a big part of why both departments are upgrading their firepower.

Some of the rifles the departments have are decades old. But the Harvey County Sheriff's Office has 21 of the semi-automatic rifles on the way.

Sheriff Chad Gay says the rifles they have now are up to fifteen years old.

"This is an older one, DPMS. The ones we're getting are much - much more quality guns," Gay said.

The biggest reason for the new firepower is Hesston.

"After Hesston happened, we decided we probably ought to invest in some new equipment," Gay said.

The sheriff says T Walton's administration ordered the new AR 15s after deputies had to respond to Hesston with old guns. The excel shooter was armed with an AK-47.

"We got guys going into that with a 15 year old gun and sometimes that takes away the reliability of it," Gay said. "Ours were just outdated and that would be a horrible feeling to go into a building and you have to react and your gun's not functioning properly."

Next door, the Newton Police Department already has eight new Sig Sauers, with more on the way.

Their old rifles range between 10 to 50 years old.

"This is a Bush Master AR-15 and it's probably about 10, 15 years old," Chief Eric Murphy said.

One problem, as guns get older, they get less reliable.

"Parts start to wear out," Murphy said. "There were some mechanical failures."

The chief says some of the guns have jammed in training.

"That would be a horrible situation if it happened in a real life incident. The officer and the community is reliant upon these pieces of equipment to be operational when they're needed. They're only needed when someone's life is in jeopardy," Murphy said.

The Chief says the department even has military surplus rifles from the Vietnam era. He says after all the new guns arrive, those could be going back to the military.

The new rifles cost about $1,500 each, according to Sheriff Gay. The department also purchased about 16 new suppressers, that cost about $450 each.

The sheriff's office was able to buy their 21 after a big drug bust brought in forfeiture money. The police department's new gear is covered in the city's annual budget.

*Correction: A previous typo mistakenly stated the rifles cost $7,500 each. The new rifles cost about $1,500.