A California school board is being criticized following reports that it approved the purchase of 14 high-caliber rifles to be issued to school police officers responding to campus shootings.
KTLA-TV reported on Wednesday that the Fontana Unified School District bought 14 Colt 6940 rifles at $1,000 apiece to store on campuses around the district. The semi-automatic weapons are used by both law enforcement and U.S. Special Forces.
The purchase was approved by district Superintendent Cali Olsen-Binks last October. According to the Fontana Herald News, school officers received the weapons last month and received 40 hours of training over the winter break to learn how to use them.
Officials said the rifles will be stored in a safe on their respective campuses and will only be used to respond to attacks like the one on Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut last month.
“We know that criminals wear bullet proof vests,” School Police Chief Billy Green told the newspaper. “Our guns are not able to penetrate these vests from long distance, so we need shoulder weapons to defend innocent people. This is a decision I made and I have no regrets.”
But while local authorities supported Olsen-Binks’ decision, other school officials expressed concern and suggested they were misled.
“They did have meetings,” board member Sophia Green told KCAL-TV. “But at no point (did anyone say), ‘Semi-automatic guns will be bought,’ ‘We have semi-automatic guns,’ or ‘Semi-automatic guns are being stored on school property.’”
Child development specialist Anna Conklin told the station that the district shuttered a school counseling program two years ago, and said the use of district funds on increased firepower ignored the question of addressing students’ mental health.
“Children aren’t born with a gun in their hand and vengeance in their mind,” she said. “They aren’t necessarily going to grow into being a killer. We, as a society, need to address why children are growing up to commit these acts as teens and adults. I don’t see how adding more weapons on a campus is addressing that.”
However, both Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren and Police Chief Rodney Jones have publicly endorsed Olsen-Binks’ move, saying it is realistic.
“Everyone wants children safe,” Warren said. “At this time, we as a community, we have to come together and find other ways. But in the interim, our police officers need to be equipped.”