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Gainesville schools look at keeping rifle at schools
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A proposal to keep one rifle each at three Gainesville schools will cost approximately $6,000, a number to be evenly split between the Gainesville City School System and the Gainesville Police Department.

The cost also includes a safe for each campus, at Gainesville High, Wood’s Mill Academy and Gainesville Middle.

The initial proposal of placing these guns at Gainesville schools was originally discussed by the city’s Board of Education in April, shortly after an elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., when 26 students and adults lost their lives.

Following an attempted school shooting in August at DeKalb County’s McNair Discovery Learning Academy, board member David Syfan requested the item be placed back on the agenda for discussion and a possible vote.

Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said she had originally expected board members to vote on the issue at the Tuesday work session as it had already been discussed in April. However, once it became clear that Gainesville High’s governance council still had questions about some of the information, the item was tabled for an October meeting of the board.

The proposed weapon is a Colt 6920 M4 Carbine. There would be one placed inside each school, locked inside a safe that would be kept inside the office of the school resource officer.

It’s the type of weapon typically kept inside police vehicles, but police Cpl. Kevin Holbrook said school resource officers may or may not have them kept in their cars. Resource officers are equipped with handguns, he said.

“(Handguns are) more of a personal defense weapon, up close, inside of 21 feet,” said police Lt. Jay Parrish. “Outside of 75 feet, it’s not very accurate for most shooters.”

Parrish said the rifle is more accurate.

“Even a novice shooter that knows how to put the sights on target can engage and eliminate targets up to 150, 200 yards effectively,” Parrish said.

To use the rifles, officers go through a 24-hour basic training course, which they must pass at 100 percent. They requalify on an annual basis.

Semiannually, they go through “combat training,” Parrish said. “It’s not so much of a qualification as it is shooting and familiarizing yourself with the weapon,” he said.

Gainesville High Governance Council Chairwoman Heather Hayes said “a lot of questions” remain.

“I think our biggest concern was sort of the necessity of having those types of guns and weapons available on campus,” Hayes said. “Is there truly a need to have it on campus versus in their cars?”

She said the governance council looks forward to meeting with the police, and having those questions answered before coming to a final decision on the matter. A date has been set for Sept. 30 for the police to meet with all three schools’ councils.

Parrish said having the weapon nearby decreases reaction time in the event of an emergency. The biometrically locked safes would only be accessible by the school resource officer.

He called the safes more of a deterrent than a locked vehicle, which would be easier to break into.

“(The safe) is going to read some part of the officer’s body that’s unique to him or her,” he said about how the school officer would access the gun.

“With a rifle, I liken it to having a fire hydrant right there when the fire comes out,” Parrish said, “as opposed to having a small amount of water, a garden hose or something like that, to douse on it. If you need water, water’s good, but the more we can put on the fire, the faster it’s out and the safer everybody is.”