A Colorado school district in the suburban Denver area will arm its school security guards with semi-automatic rifles this fall in an attempt to protect students should a school shooting occur.
NBC News reports that the Douglas County School District will provide the rifles to the school district’s eight armed officers, who’ve been thoroughly trained in using firearms; training took place with the county’s sheriff’s deputies. The security director of the Douglas County School District, Richard Payne, said that he plans to spend around $12,000 on 10 Bushmaster military-style rifles, which will not be allowed in the schools. Each officer is to keep their rifle in their patrol car.
Ken Trump, a school safety consultant, said that this marks the first time a school district in the U.S. will arm its school guards with semi-automatic rifles, although arming employees with other types of firearms and protection has become standard after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT.
“I can’t think of one instance I’ve heard of where an in-house security department does that. There is a great deal of responsibility and liability that accompanies this level of ratcheting up its security personnel.”
The school district already has several layers of security. Along with the eight security officers who’ll receive the rifles, the district has nine school resource officers and 56 campus security specialists.
Although Douglas County School District thinks that the added protection will help prevent another Sandy Hook incident from happening, experts on school safety, such as Trump, disagree. He feels such powerful firearms should be left out of the school district’s plans altogether.
“Taking this step certainly ratchets up a notch the whole idea, the question of what’s reasonable, what’s necessary in terms of arming officers.”
Yet, Payne stated that not only are the eight school security guards previous law enforcement officers, but they are also required to complete a 20-hour training course. He also reiterated what others in favor of a better response plan to school emergencies have said in the past: police officers may not be able to get to a school in time before numerous students are shot and killed.
With 86 schools that span over 900 square miles combined, Payne indicated that school security guards have a much better chance of quickly taking charge of an emergency situation while waiting for police to arrive.
Mo Canady, the executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), sided with Payne and stated that officers should have access to these types of firearms should something serious start to unfold.
“We’re not talking about officers walking around with this strapped on all day long, but certainly to have reasonable access to defend against a really bad situation.”
The hope, of course, is that the security officers will never have to use the rifles. Regardless, Colorado state law permits school districts to arm its officers, although the decision to do so varies greatly with each district. Some Colorado school districts allow security guards to have handguns, whereas other districts don’t allow any firearms at all.
As far as concerns parents may have, Payne said that the majority of them understand that schools need to be prepared ahead of time, whether another incident similar to Sandy Hook happens or not. Many parents and school officials in Colorado still remember the innocent lives lost in the 1999 Littleton, Colorado, school shooting, when two students, armed with 9mm firearms and 12-gauge shotguns, killed numerous fellow students and staff members at Columbine High School.
“Overall, parents recognize that based on lessons learned, we must be prepared.”
The school security officers are scheduled to receive the semi-automatic rifles in August, just before the 2016-17 school year begins.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]