Granite School District arms its school officers with semi-automatic rifles

This story was published Feb. 25, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) – After Columbine and before Sandy Hook a Utah school district made what some consider to be a drastic step in securing their schools; the Granite School District armed their school police officers with semi-automatic rifles.

The Granite School District is the only district in the state with its own police department; they employee 15 officers to watch over 92 schools. Their number one goal is to protect their students, and in order to really do that, the district says it needs to arm their officers with the same weapons the bad guys are using.

When Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary school he was armed with a handgun and a semi-automatic riffle. In just 11 minutes 20 children and six adults were dead.

It’s a tragedy the Granite School District is doing everything to avoid, and it’s the reason why they’ve armed their school resource officers with 12 ar-15 rifles and 3 m-16s

Granite School District Spokesperson Ben Horsley told ABC 4 Utah, “I think our parents would be pleased to know that literally everything we can do to keep our kids safe is being done.”

In 2005, as part of the U.S Department of Defense’s 1033 program the school district acquired three surplus M-16s. The following year they equipped the rest of their officer’s with AR-15s.

“In a rapid response they’re not going to be waiting for backup they’re going to immediately go into the school and if they’re faced with a simple handgun or a shotgun against an AR-15 they’re going to be out gunned and that’s not going to help us save lives,” explained Horsley.

To see how the AR-15 differs from a hand gun or a riffle we went to the experts at Get Some Guns and Ammo.

Horsley said, “A shot gun is good for close proximity, a hand gun similar, but when you’re looking at taking out a potential suspect who’s running rampage in a school you need something more precise.”

The reaction from the public, on the other hand, is mixed.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Robert Valdez. “I don’t understand why a police officer needs to have an automatic weapon inside a school.”

Marc Friese told ABC 4 Utah, “I find that if criminals are going to have weapons I would feel safe if my kids had someone to protect them with the same kind of weapons.”

Matching fire power is exactly what the Granite School District Police Department is doing and they make no apologies for it.

“I want bad guys to know that we have those weapons. I want them to know that if they come into one of our schools that this is what they’re going to be faced with,” said Horsley.

In the nearly 10 years since they’ve had these weapons the district tells says their officers have never had to fire, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be ready if ever they needed to  the officers are certified on their weapons twice annually.

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