- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Two public schools in Los Alamos, New Mexico, will be outfitted with gun safes designed to hold shotguns and AR-15s as the result of a board ruling last week.

The Los Alamos School Board unanimously agreed Thursday to put police-owned gun safes inside the local middle and high school. Officials intend on having the safes installed before the end of the school year, KOB-TV reported Tuesday this week.

The initiative was proposed by Los Alamos Police Chief Dino Sgambellone, who said law enforcement should be able to have gun safes inside the two schools so officers are able to adequately respond in the event of a shooting.

Currently, the Los Alamos Police Department has an officer permanently stationed at each of the two schools, as well as another tasked with routinely patrolling the district’s five elementary schools. Those officers are already equipped with standard-issued sidearms, but Chief Sgambellone told attendees at last week’s hearing that the schools stand to benefit by having an auxiliary arsenal available on campus in the event of exigent circumstances.

“It will be stocked with shotguns and AR-15s,” the police chief said at Thursday’s meeting. “The reason for that is, and this isn’t in all cases, but in some layouts of schools a pistol is not an appropriate weapon because of the long hallways. Also, a pistol does not always appropriately counter what is brought to these types of situations.”

“There would be no reason to expose that type of weaponry in any situation other than an active shooter,” he added, according to the Los Alamos Monitor.

Parents of Los Alamos students had mixed reactions when asked Monday about the plans by KOB-TV

“For security and protection reason, then yeah I’m always for police carrying. I think they need to put in the right procedures and protections for access to the safes and locks,” said parent Ning Lee.

“I’m thinking the officer that has the gun on him would do more damage and more protection than having to run clear across campus to get a high-powered rifle,” responded another, Melissa Sanchez.

Chief Sgambellone said the safes will be kept in an on-campus location kept hidden from students and will be only accessible to the officer patrolling that particular school, KOB-TV reported.

“Even the two minutes it would take to get there and back, lives are potentially being lost. So to have more of a quick access that’s left in a secure fashion and would only be taken out during the most extreme situations to me is prudent,” the police chief told the network.

The Los Alamos Middle and High Schools had a combined enrollment of around 1,180 students as of a report published last month in the town’s Monitor newspaper.

The Mad River School District near Dayton, Ohio, announced earlier this month that it plans to install gun safes ahead of the 2017-2018 school year as the result of a wave of recent school shooting, including at incident this past February in nearby Madison Township, Butler County.

At least 191 school shootings have happened in the United States since 2013 according to Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, a nonpartisan group whose efforts are intended to reduce gun violence in the U.S.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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