Resource officers in Utah’s Granite School District have obtained surplus military rifles from the Department of Defense, one of several new tools intended to help keep kids safe while at school.
According to local media, the upgrade was accompanied by mixed reactions from parents, who mainly suggest that while it’s bothersome that such measures must be taken, they would rather their children be safe and law enforcement adequately equipped to handle an unthinkable situation.
“It’s kind of scary sending them off to school every morning,” said parent Melissa Stevens. “You never know what’s going to happen.”
And while the weapons may look intimidating, Granite School District spokesperson Ben Horsley assures parents that the intimidation is only aimed at a particular threat.
“These weapons are not intended to provide intimidation for anybody but bad guys,” Horsley told reporters.
However, school resource officers won’t be carrying the rifles around the school either, but rather the guns will be locked in racks in patrol vehicles.
Police Chief Randy Johnson also clarified that while the rifles function no differently than a semi-automatic shotgun, they still give officers an overall advantage in the event of an active shooter scenario.
“This has a single projectile that is very accurate, and that’s why we issue them to our officers,” Johnson explained. “If we don’t get in and stop the shooter, more people are going to die. It’s called rapid response.”
Johnson also admitted that the ideas surrounding school safety have changed in a post-Columbine world.
“Over the past 20 years law enforcement across the country has had to respond to the shootings in the malls, the shootings in schools, the shootings in theaters,” Johnson said. “And to be able to effectively protect the public, we need to be able to match the weapon that is being used by the person that’s attempting to do harm. Most often a long gun is being used by these perpetrators.”
Although it’s a common misconception that assault rifles are used in mass shootings despite a recent study showing otherwise, at least one parent, Rebecca Alexander, agrees that school officers should have firearms that are just as good, if not better than the bad guy’s.
“Typically if there is an emergency, they’re dealing with someone who has that type of equipment already,” Alexander said, adding, “I think the more safety and the more precaution they take make me feel better as a parent.”
Nonetheless, the rifles are only one tool that the district has chosen to promote better safety in the schools. Other upgrades include a high-tech camera system which allows officials to keep an eye on everything that’s going on in the school from one central location.
The rifles, which are being referred to as military-grade AR-15s, were obtained through what’s known as the 1033 program, which distributes surplus military weapons and other equipment to law enforcement agencies across the country. Sixty-two agencies in the state of Utah received equipment from the program, but the Granite School District Police Department is the only law enforcement agency in the state whose primary purpose is to provide protection for the school district.