Should police keep automatic rifles in schools?

September 7, 2012 (PLAINFIELD, Ill.)

Police officers who are assigned to schools full-time typically wear a standard-issued sidearm. But many departments feel their school resource officers should have stronger firepower readily available for what's referred to as an "active shooter event."

On August 21, Plainfield Police Chief John Konopek asked the school board for permission to have AR15 semi-automatic rifles placed in locked safes in three of the district's high schools. They would be available only to the officers assigned to the schools. "We, as the police, and myself, as a parent, look at it as an effective means to respond if that worst case scenario does happen," Chief Konopek said. Reaction to that request- which included a petition drive in opposition - prompted the chief to scuttle his request.

"Although he still strongly supports the proposal," Chief Konopek wrote in a letter to school officials that, "it has changed the focus of what people should be concentrating on," meaning education. He also wrote that some of the "proposed security measures have been compromised" by media attention.

Chief Konopek withdrew his request before the school board took a position.

What became the issue of some public debate in Plainfield has already been done without public attention in other school districts, including in nearby Minooka.

"Our guys are trained with it. We do qualifications and are trained on it at least once a year," Minooka Police Chief Justin Meyer said.

The police officer assigned to the high school carries an M16 into the building that he keeps locked up during the day and takes with him when the school day is over. The police department is right across the street.

After an active shooter drill a couple years ago, police and school officials in Minooka agreed that extra firepower preparedness was wise, and they did it.

"Haven't had any reaction, haven't had any calls from parents. The only people that had contacted me are from the media," Chief Meyer said.

Bartlett High School has had a semi-automatic rifle inside the school under lock and key for years. It's available to the school assigned police officer.

The decision to place the rifle at Bartlett high in 2004 was considered a security issue, which is not typically made public.

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