News that the Douglas County School District in Colorado is arming some security guards with military-style, semi-automatic Bushmaster rifles is making the rounds this week.
The district’s security director Richard Payne told media he spent $12,300 on 10 new guns to upgrade his eight-person, pistol-packing school security personnel with more high-powered munitions. He said he needs them to keep the 67,000 students safe. While eight guards currently carry guns, there are about 55 other members of the security staff who do not.
Conversations about beefing up arms began last July, Douglas County School Board President Meghann Silverthorn told The Colorado Independent, but the news only made headlines recently after a citizen spotted an expenditure on the district’s public transparency website that details district purchases. Silverthorn used the opportunity to tout her district’s commitment to open government.
“If we wanted to be opaque about it we could have been, but we chose not to be,” she said about the heavier artillery.
While some members of the school board didn’t know about the new firearms until they heard about them on social media or in the news, the board president said that’s likely because of recent turnover. She said the gun purchases didn’t require a vote because they cost less than $75,000. The reason the district chose the new types of firearms, she said, is because the district did an analysis of active shooter scenarios and found perpetrators with long guns have a better advantage against security with smaller arms.
“You have these folks that are outgunned,” she said, adding she wouldn’t want her staff in such a situation.
Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this news out of Colorado, a state with a bloody history of gun violence, school shootings, and heated political debates over firearms, has been quickly generating national headlines from The Washington Post to The Christian Science Monitor.
Arming school personnel became a nationwide conversation following the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. A judge there last week ruled families of the victims can sue the manufacturers that made guns used in the attack, including Bushmaster.
Speaking to the local ABC station, Denver 7, Payne, the district security director, chalked up his decision to heavily arm school security guards as a logical conclusion in contemporary American life.
“I can say from lessons learned and looking at all the situations that have happened across the country with shootings, that having the correct tools, having the long rifles have helped out in situations,” he told the station. “It’s unfortunate, but this is where we have come to.”
Board president Silverthorn echoed the sentiment in an interview with The Independent, saying, “We respond to the world that we live in and not the one that we wish we are in.”
This wouldn’t be the first time semi-automatic rifles landed in the hands of school security guards. The Washington Post reports that a California school district armed its police with similar weapons made by Colt in 2013.
The guns in the Colorado school district will stay locked up in cars, not in the school itself, and those handling them will have to undergo 20 hours of training. Payne said he knew other school districts were “entertaining” the idea, but he declined to name them.
See the report from Denver 7 below.
[Photo credit: Wendy via Creative Commons on Flickr]