Store-Bought Protection

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When two heavily armed bandits grabbed $350,000 from a North Hollywood bank on February 28, the ensuing shootout with Los Angeles police resulted in a prime-time TV special and prompted politicians to call for stricter gun control. Lost in the shuffle, though, is how the outgunned cops ended their battle with robo-robbers Larry Eugene Phillips and Emil Matasareanu.

The pair deployed five fully automatic rifles, each of which was illegal long before the current outcry against so-called assault weapons. During the heist, they sprayed anything that moved, including news helicopters, with rapid fire. Police-issue 9mm pistols are hardly a match for fully automatic firepower. So as the bullets flew, the outgunned cops headed not to the local precinct but to nearby B&B Sales, a private gun store.

The owner recognized some of the officers as previous customers and, overlooking the 15-day waiting period a typical civilian would face before being able to legally obtain firearms, quickly supplied them with four 5.56mm Bushmaster XM-15 semi-automatic rifles with high-capacity magazines and two Remington shotguns with rifled slugs. Once the officers were on a more equal footing, they plunged back into the fray, taking down the bad guys with no loss of innocent life. The LAPD offers no comment on the officers' use of these privately obtained weapons during the onslaught, as it has been sued by the robbers' families for refusing to give the crooks medical attention after shooting them.

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