Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has criticised claims that one of his detectives murdered in a botched heist could have survived if he was carrying a submachine gun recently removed from the force.
The police chief said anyone who knew the facts about Adrian Donohoe's killing outside a credit union at Lordship, Co Louth, in January would know the withdrawn weapon would not have helped him.
Mid-ranking gardai are demanding the Uzi sub-machine gun be reissued to authorised detectives around the country.
Inspector Walter Kilcullen, based at Lucan, west Dublin, suggested his colleague Det Gda Donohoe would have been better protected if he was armed with the high-powered gun.
Speaking at the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) annual conference, he said: "Maybe that night, if he had an Uzi submachine gun, what happened might not have happened."
Mr Kilcullen said officers on high-risk operations now have to rely on pistols which are smaller and not as intimidating to criminals. But Mr Callinan said anyone "equipped with the salient facts" will realise that an Uzi submachine gun "would not have made the slightest bit of difference".
He added: "And I do think it was an inappropriate comment, particularly as that family is still grieving, as indeed all of our garda colleagues are. It wasn't an appropriate comment to make."
Mr Kilcullen, a senior member of the Agsi national executive, said the Uzi had been used by gardai since the late 1960s and had served the force well. Taking them away from officers was like telling traffic police to return their motorbikes and use Segways instead, he told delegates.
Delegates were told criminals and subversives have been afraid of the Uzi for years and it was very effective for personal protection.
Danny Coughlan, of the Regional Support Unit based at Anglsea Street in Cork, said handguns were not effective in dealing with siege or barricade situations. He also questioned whether a risk assessment was carried out before getting rid of the submachine guns.