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Springfield police seize guns with heavy-duty firepower

Paul Tuthill
Police in Springfield, Massachusetts displayed six firearms confiscated on June 11, 2022 during the arrests of five people alleged to be members of a violent local street gang. The rifle is considered an assault weapon and according to Deputy Chief Steven Kent it can fire a round that wound penetrate a bulletproof vest.

Confiscated assault rifle can penetrate a bulletproof vest

The proliferation of guns in Springfield, Massachusetts is again being highlighted by police and the city’s mayor.

Not quite halfway through the year, Springfield police have taken 133 illegally possessed firearms off the streets. Last year, a total of 254 guns were seized.

Massachusetts has tough laws that are often pointed to by gun control advocates as possible national models, but the proliferation of guns in Springfield, and elsewhere, continues. When police seize an illegal gun they attempt to trace its origin. Often, the gun had been reported stolen in another state, said Deputy Police Chief Steven Kent.

“There are ghost guns that can be ordered online that we are seeing a marked increase in and straw purchasers – people that can legally purchase in Massachusetts or some other part of the country,” Kent said. “There are a variety of different ways (to obtain guns).”

When he worked in the narcotics bureau in the mid-1990s, Kent said it was rare that police would discover a gun during a drug raid; now it is unusual when they don’t. And, not only are there more guns now, the firepower is much greater.

“Someone has got to figure this out before you have a round going into a child’s bedroom, or through a car window, or some child out to get ice cream,” Kent said. “It has got to change.”

Springfield police highlighted the recent seizure of six guns and the arrests of five men alleged to be members of a violent local street gang. One of the handguns had a 22 round magazine. Another was loaded with 12 rounds of ammunition. Police recovered a MAG Tactical System rifle capable of holding 30 rounds, which had modifications that classify it as an assault weapon, said Kent.

“That rifle will penetrate a bulletproof vest, penetrate the body and come out the back of that vast and probably penetrate the vest of the cop standing behind that first cop,” said Kent.

He emphasized that the arrests and firearms seizure happened on a residential street on a warm Saturday evening with people outside in their backyards and children playing. Kent praised the detectives who he said knew the danger they faced.

“They took a lot of bad guys off the street and a lot of fire power off the street and I could not be prouder of these guys,” Kent said.

Last July, in response to a spike in shootings, Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood created the Firearms Investigation Unit. Captain Brian Keenan, who directs the unit, said the detectives work hard to take guns off the streets.

“The results of their work we don’t see. It’s the people who aren’t shot. It’s the mothers who are not going to the funeral parlor. It’s the people who are alive,” he said.

The proliferation of “heavy-duty firepower” is “sickening,” said Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.

“Thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers,” said Sarno, mocking a phrase repeated so often following mass shootings that it is seen by many as ineffective. “Let’s do something about it. Let’s do something about it.”

He again faulted judges for letting violent criminals out on a low bail. Four of the five men arrested when the MAG rifle was seized were on bail on open gun or home invasion charges. Three were wearing court-ordered GPS bracelets.

“You want to stop gun violence?” Keep these bad actors locked up,” said Sarno.

For several years, Sarno has pushed for passage of a bill that would allow prosecutors to appeal bail decisions by judges, but it has gained no traction on Beacon Hill.