A suburban Denver school district is arming its security staff with military-style semiautomatic rifles to protect students in case of a school shooting or other violent attack, the AP reports. The guards, who are not law enforcement officers, already carry handguns. Douglas County School District security director Richard Payne told the Denver Post that he decided to spend more than $12,000 on the Bushmaster brand rifles for the district's eight armed officers to give them the same tools as law enforcement, including the sheriff's deputies they train with. He said they will be kept locked in patrol cars. Payne said he made the decision to buy the rifles himself and said the school board has not discussed it.
The Bushmaster rifle is a semi-automatic descendant of the original M-16 automatic rifle used by the military in Vietnam. A Bushmaster rifle was used in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. Victims' families are suing the company, claiming it is a military weapon that should not have been sold to civilians. Douglas County security officers will have to complete a 20-hour training course before the rifles are handed out. The first few guns will be deployed by next month and the rest will be distributed in August, Payne said. "It's not something to do lightly," a national security consultant said about the plan. "It better be well thought out." (Read more guns in schools stories.)