Former US Army Infantry officer shunned for giving his rifles to police at buy back event

Steve Hemmert hands over two of his rifles to the Miami Police Department in exchange for gift cards during a firearm buy back event. (Steve Hemmert/Facebook)

A former US Army Infantry officer surrendered two of his AR-pattern rifles to Miami Police over the weekend, publicly claiming that “there is no valid need for a civilian to own an AR.”

Steve Hemmert -who originally hails from California- participated in the largely-ridiculed MPD gun buyback on Saturday, which offered gift cards of up to $250 for every AR or AK-pattern rifle. In a Facebook post, the former officer posted a photo of him handing his rifles over to Miami PD Commander Freddy Cruz in Little Havana.

“With some hesitation born of nostalgia, I turned in two AR-style rifles to the Miami Police Department as part of their gun buy-back program today,” Hemmert wrote.

Hemmert described himself as a “former U.S. Army Infantry officer, I was well trained in the use of, and felt very comfortable with, the M-16/M-4 platform,” and added that he and his 14-year-old daughter had built one of the ARs together before the Parkland shooting earlier this year.

“There is no valid need for any civilian to own an AR,” he said. “They make terrible self defense weapons because they can’t safely be stored in a condition that makes them available to use quickly, and the rounds penetrate walls too easily.”

Hemmert then -incorrectly- began claiming that the 5.56mm/.223-caliber cartridge commonly used by the AR was not legal for use in hunting (even though it is legal in the state of Florida, having proven to be quite effective on hogs and the smaller sized deer that live in the state), and began going on about how individuals with small arms can not fight a larger force, seemingly forgetting just about every major armed conflict the US has been involved in over the past half-century, often unsuccessfully, against insurgents armed with small arms.

“They aren’t hunting rifles (it’s not even legal to shoot a deer with one),” he said. “I know very well that my little AR is never going to be used to stand up to a government that has tanks and heavy machine guns. And God forbid someone steals them and uses them to kill more innocents.”

Hemmert wrote that it was his terrified 14-year-old daughter that convinced him, an adult, to turn in his firearms.

“How can we, as parents, force our kids to live in a world where they have to be afraid of being killed at school?” he wrote. “My daughter recently told me that her plan is to only wear sneakers to school from now on, in case she needs to run. And I realize that, unlike some of my neighbors, I am lucky to still HAVE a 14 year old daughter.”

The former infantryman then called for an outright ban on the rifles, suggesting serious (and unconstitutional) legal action and punishments for those who don’t comply.

“Now that I have eliminated the hypocrisy of these guns from my house, I feel comfortable calling on our government to ban them,” he wrote. “We need the same legislation that has been so effective in Australia. Outlaw the manufacture and sale of semiautomatic centerfire firearms with removable magazines and require the legal owners of those firearms to turn them in for compensation with a year. Provide amnesty during that same year for illegal owners of those guns to turn them in. Then make it a 10-20-life offense to be caught with one.”

Before commenting was disabled on his post, Hemmert was largely ridiculed by many, including scores of veterans and military personnel accusing him of betraying his oath to defend and uphold the Constitution.

“What a [expletive] and disgrace to Army infantry officers everywhere,” one nine-year military veteran from Florida wrote in the comments. “I see you forgot your oath that you took.”

Another veteran posted a meme asking “Who Would Win?”, depicting a M1A2 Abrams tank and an Explosively Formed Projectile (EFP), the latter described as “some weird bowl.”

The Miami buyback was panned by gun owners in the days prior to event, as accessories for the AR or AK-pattern rifle are often more than the $250 offered for each one, let alone a complete rifle.

The AR-15 is one of the most popular firearms in America, preferred for its modularity, reliability, ease of use and starring role in the defense of the United States -at home and abroad- for over half a century. Since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the rifle became incredibly popular with returning veterans who were familiar with the near-identical manual of arms used when operating select-fire military variants.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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