During a press conference on Wednesday, it was announced that a proposal to allow Gainesville City School resource officers (SROs) to have semi-automatic rifles stored in schools is set for a vote in October. A yes vote would allow the three SRO’s to secure the rifles on school grounds, as well as provide funding to purchase the new weapons. The plan was first considered after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Connecticut.
Lt. Jay Parrish of the Gainesville Police stated during the Wednesday press conference that a safety assessment performed at every city school after the Sandy Hook shooting revealed that "The adversary has bigger, better weapons than what the average officer carries in their day-to-day operations and we saw a need to get that to the school resource officers because they're usually the first to be there."
The initial draft of the proposal went to the three city schools in April, but was never brought to a vote due to questions about how the plan would work by the Gainesville School Board. School Board Member David Syfan asked that the proposal be placed back on the agenda following an incident two weeks ago when a heavily armed gunman gained access to an elementary school in Dekalb County.
Currently, the SRO’s store their rifles in their vehicles, but Parrish believes that is not practical if a gunman enters the school building.
“If we have an officer in the school and we have an intruder that needs to be addressed, we don't want that officer to leave the school because then he may not have access back in," said Parrish. "So if the officer is in there, he needs all the tools he can [get] to handle that situation."
The semi-automatic rifles would also allow the officers to more accurately target at longer distances.
“In some of these hallways, we have 100-plus foot hallways - a handgun's just not effective in that area," said Parrish.
Total cost for three Colt 6920 M4 Carbines and safes to hold the weapons while in the school buildings would be around $6,000, according to Parrish. The police department and the school system would share that expense. The weapons would never stay on school grounds when the SRO is not present.
Because all Gainesville City schools are charter schools, the school’s governance councils will decide if the rifles will be allowed in the schools. The councils will meet September 30 with the GPD to present questions, and once they receive answers to those questions they will report to the school board. A final decision on funding will be made at that time.
Subscribe to this page for email alerts when new articles are available.