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California school district gets high powered rifles

A Fontana, Calif. school district purchased 14 high powered rifles. They say the decision for the California school to buy the rifles was made before the Newtown, Conn. shooting. 

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A California school district bought rifles to help provide security for students in Decemeber. The California school purchased 14 rifles, including this Colt LE6940 semiautomatic rifle.

Associated Press/FUSD Police

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The high-powered semiautomatic rifles recently shipped to school police in this Southern California city look like they belong on a battlefield rather than in a high school, but officials here say the weapons could help stop a massacre like the one that claimed the lives of 26 students and educators in Connecticut just weeks ago.

Fontana Unified School District police purchased 14 of the Colt LE6940 rifles last fall, and they were delivered the first week of December — a week before the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Over the holiday break, the district's 14 school police officers received 40 hours of training on the rifles. Officers check them out for each shift from a fireproof safe in the police force's main office.

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. Fontana school police Chief Billy Green said he used money from fingerprinting fees to purchase 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.

"They're not walking around telling kids, 'Hurry up and get to class' with a gun around their neck," the chief said. "Parents need to know that if there was a shooter on their child's campus that was equipped with body armor or a rifle, we would be limited in our ability to stop that threat to their children."

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