school zone or a war zone?
The Los Angeles Unified School District's police department will return three grenade launchers, but it's not giving up 61 rifles or a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle.
The military weaponry was obtained through a federal program that gives local law enforcement surplus equipment at no charge, the Los Angeles Times reports. Since 1997, more than $5 billion in excess equipment has been distributed to law enforcement departments across the country, including school police. LAUSD is one of about 22 school districts in eight states that are participating in the program.
The district said that it has modified the M-16 automatic rifles to semiautomatic, and that they are "essential live-saving items" that can only be used by officers who have undergone training. As for the armored vehicle, that will only be brought out "under extraordinary circumstances." While some school officials say such items are needed to prevent school shootings and other tragedies, educational, civil rights, and parent groups find them unnecessary.
"Military-grade weapons have no place on our public school campuses," Deborah Fowler, deputy director of the social justice nonprofit Texas Appleseed, told the Times. "We're simply calling for a return to common sense when it comes to the way our schools are kept safe."