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BURNET — Burnet County sheriff’s deputies just landed a little more firepower thanks to an anonymous donation of 30 AR-15 semi-automatic rifles.

“That will provide every officer and most of our (Criminal Investigation Department) personnel with rifle capabilities,” Burnet County Sheriff W.T. Smith said. Previously, the deputies relied predominantly on their pistols or provided their own rifles if they wanted the extra firepower.

The donation came from a wholesaler who wished to remain anonymous. Purchased separately, the rifles cost anywhere between $800 and $1,400, depending on the make and amenities. Each of the rifles comes with an Aimpoint scope.

Smith said the rifles offer the deputies an additional level of security.

“When you meet that kind of force, you just want to have equal to or greater force than your adversary, whoever that may be,” he added.

While Burnet County might not seem to many people as a place with highly armed and dangerous criminals, Smith pointed out a drug investigation in December that led to more than 15 arrests and the seizure of more than 70 weapons. Officials linked the methamphetamine allegedly being distributed from a Bertram-area residence to a Mexican organization.

And, he added, there are times when deputies must approach potentially dangerous situations, even when pulling over a vehicle, and the rifle provides added protection.

The rifle also will give deputies additional protection during dynamic entries into residences or businesses where he or she believes a crime might be occurring, the sheriff said.

“We want to be well-equipped to respond for our own safety and the safety of the citizens as well,” Smith said.

Typically, rural departments such as BCSO can’t afford AR-15s and similar rifles because of budgetary restraints. This donation allows Burnet County deputies to have resources that larger departments can afford without costing local taxpayers between $24,000 and $42,000.

Smith said the 30 rifles have been delivered, and deputies will undergo training and qualification on the weapons.

Staff writer Connie Swinney contributed to this report.