SALT LAKE CITY — The Granite School District Police Department has issued military-grade AR-15 rifles to all of its officers.
The district says the move is part of its efforts to keep kids safe every day and increase response times to emergency situations.
“These weapons are not intended to provide intimidation to anybody but bad guys,” Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley said.
These guns are no different in nature than a shotgun, said Chief Randy Johnson, adding that he believes they will will help keep kids a lot safer in an emergency event.
"This has a single projectile that is very accurate, and that’s why we issue them to our officers,” he said.
Since the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado, Johnson says law enforcement officers have had to change the way they protect schools, getting in as quickly as possible.
"If we don't get in and stop the shooter, more people are going to die, so it's called rapid response,” he said.
The weapons were acquired through the Department of Defense Excess Property program or 1033 Program, which provides surplus military equipment to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies.
Along with the weapons, the department has been installing a high-tech camera system in all of the district's school so it can monitor what is going on inside the schools from a dispatch center.
"We fell like we can provide a fairly robust response to an armed individual in our schools," Johnson said.
On top of that, officers are trained in emergency response and protocol.
"We are doing everything we can to keep kids safe,” Horsley said. “Parents need to know that the measures that we take are intended to keep kids safe and keep our staff safe and make sure that schools are truly a learning environment.”
Parent Rebecca Alexander said she feels safer with the added protection.
"I think the more safety and the more precaution they take make me feel better as a parent,” she said.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company