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Fontana, California – High powered rifles that were shipped to school police in Southern California look like they belong in a war zone and not in the campus. School officials were adamant that the guns would help them stop any attacks similar to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that claimed the lives of 26 students and teachers in Connecticut.
The rifles, Colt LE6940, were ordered last fall and was delivered the first week of December. The Fontana Unified School District order 14 rifles in total for the district’s 14 school police officers who will also receive almost two days worth of training on handling the firearms.
Fontana isn’t the first district to try this. Other Southern California districts also have rifle programs – some that have been in operation for several years. Santa Ana Unified School District, in nearby Orange County, has had a rifle program for about two years that operates similarly to the one Fontana has started, said police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
Fontana school police Chief Billy Green said he purchased the guns for $14,000 after identifying a “critical vulnerability” in his force’s ability to protect students. The officers, who already wear sidearms, wouldn’t be able to stop a shooter like the one in Connecticut, he said Wednesday.
The 40,000-student district came up with the school rifle program after consulting with top school safety experts and looking at what other large districts had done, said Superintendent Cali Olsen-Binks.
The Los Angeles School Police Department also deploys rifles to its officers as needed, the department said in a statement. It would not say how many rifles district police have but said the weapons are kept in the department’s armory and are handed out and returned daily.
The San Bernardino City Unified School District police force purchased four Bushmaster semiautomatic rifles last July, said Linda Bardere, a district spokeswoman.
Fontana is a city of about 200,000 people east of Los Angeles.