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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Sheriff's officers say the city's criminals are so heavily armed that they must intensify their own defenses.

Eyewitness News has learned that every officer will now have access to a semi-automatic AR-15 and will be armed with a taser. :twisted: :twisted: 8)

Such weapons are generally found in the military, and not on the streets. But police site several recent crimes that have made them reconsider their own protection.

Police cite the chilling image of a gunman pointing an automatic weapon at a woman during a recent bank robbery, and Clay County deputies say a mass murder suspect used a semi-automatic weapon to kill four people over the weekend.

Officers said the new weapons put them on a "level playing ground" with criminals, improving officer safety and public security.

Police said the new semi-automatic rifle was chosen for several reasons, including the fact that it holds more rounds, is more accurate in long-distance shooting, and is less penetrating, so someone standing behind a suspect would be less likely to be injured.

In addition to the rifle, every patrol officer will also have a taser gun. Police say it's painful, but not deadly.

The weapons will be paid for with $1.8 million from the mayor's Public Safety Initiative. The purchase is set for some time after the city's budget comes out in October.
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