Fontana, Calif., schools get high-powered rifles

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 24, 2013 at 12:15 am •  Published: January 24, 2013
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FONTANA, Calif. (AP) — The high-powered semiautomatic rifles recently shipped to school police in this Southern California city look like they belong on a battlefield rather than in a high school, but officials here say the weapons could help stop a massacre like the one that claimed the lives of 26 students and educators in Connecticut just weeks ago.

Fontana Unified School District police purchased 14 of the Colt LE6940 rifles last fall, and they were delivered the first week of December — a week before the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Over the holiday break, the district's 14 school police officers received 40 hours of training on the rifles. Officers check them out for each shift from a fireproof safe in the police force's main office.

Fontana isn't the first district to try this. Other Southern California districts also have rifle programs — some that have been in operation for several years. Fontana school police Chief Billy Green said he used money from fingerprinting fees to purchase the guns for $14,000 after identifying a "critical vulnerability" in his force's ability to protect students. The officers, who already wear sidearms, wouldn't be able to stop a shooter like the one in Connecticut, he said Wednesday.

"They're not walking around telling kids, 'Hurry up and get to class' with a gun around their neck," the chief said. "Parents need to know that if there was a shooter on their child's campus that was equipped with body armor or a rifle, we would be limited in our ability to stop that threat to their children."

Some parents and students, however, reacted with alarm to the news that school resource officers were being issued the rifles during their shifts. The officers split their time between 44 schools in the district and keep the rifles in a safe at their assigned school or secured in their patrol car each day before checking the weapon back in to the school police headquarters each night.

"If the wrong person gets ahold of the gun, then we have another shooter going around with a gun. What happens then, if that situation occurs?" said James Henriquez, a 16-year-old sophomore who just enrolled at Fontana High School this week after moving from Texas.

Other students said they felt disillusioned that officials would spend money on semiautomatic rifles while the district eliminated its comprehensive guidance counseling program two years ago.

"They should get guns, but not as many and not spend so much money on them," said student Elizabeth Tovar. "They should use the money to get back our counselors because a lot of us really need them."



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