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Fontana school PD's rifles spark controversy

January 23, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The Fontana Unified School District police are now armed with high caliber rifles.

The district purchased 14 Colt rifles valued at $1,000 each. The weapons are designed to provide accuracy over long distances.

Fontana school board officials voted to buy the rifles with public funds, but it was not a unanimous decision. Board member Leticia Garcia was strongly opposed to the idea.

"My first interest is to protect students, but I also have to look out for the integrity of the district," Garcia said. "If we are putting ourselves at risk or at liability for having these guns accessible then it is something that we need to talk about."

The $14,000 purchase also has many parents up in arms.

Parent Gloria Zapata thinks bringing armed guns onto school campuses is a bad idea.

"They should bring back counselors and focus more on the mental health aspect of it versus 'hey I have an assault rifle so you better not shoot up our school'".

The guns were purchased before the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., which killed 20 students and six adults.

Fontana Unified School District Police Chief Billy Green says the purchase was a must to protect all 45 campuses.

"There's a place called Newtown, Ct," Green said. "There was shooting up north in northern California. There was a shooting yesterday in Texas. Do we wait until kids and staff members are killed in Fontana before we take proactive action?"

Fontana school officials hope the new weapons will help police prevent any future tragedies.

The colt 6940 fires rounds that can pierce military style body armor. They're used by army special ops for long distance accuracy. School officers went through extensive training before receiving the weapons.

"Fontana Unified police officers deserve to be properly trained and equipped for the worst possible scenario. Properly arming our officer's was clearly the right action to take. This does not diminish the need to keep lines of communication in our schools open so that potential threats are identified," said Gus Hawthorne, Fontana school board president. "It does not preclude teaching students, parents and staff what to look for and how to identify those individuals who could become a threat."

Some people are opposed to the high caliber rifles, saying that these types of guns are not needed on campuses. But officials said officers will not be walking around campuses with the rifles. The weapons will only be used in extreme situatons and will be reportedly housed in a safe place on campus and under constant surveillance. Still, the idea raises a red flag for many.

"We have some innovative people. Students, teachers etc... I don't know I don't know who has access to these riffles," Garcia said.

Chief Green assured parents the safety and security of staff and students remains his No. 1 priority.

"In the history of the Fontana Unified School Police Department, police services division, there has never been a weapon which has been compromised," Green said. "Could it happen? Sure. But I would like to assure you that I'm taking every step to make sure that doesn't happen."

A Board of Education meeting is scheduled to discuss the matter at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the district office.


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