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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UAPD to carry automatics

    If a shooter strides onto campus this summer and starts taking aim, the University of Arizona Police Department intends to have the firepower appropriate to react more quickly and effectively than it could today.

    Hence, possibly by June, some officers will be trained to carry automatic rifles capable of accurately hitting targets at greater distances than with the department’s standard-issue handgun.

    The rifles, which will accompany on-duty officers in their vehicles, will be used only when a situation, like an on-campus shooting, calls for it, said UAPD Chief Anthony Daykin.

    “”They’re not intended as offensive weapons,”” said Sgt. Eugene Mejia, public information officer for UAPD. “”They are to be used defensively, as a response.””

    UAPD’s new patrol-rifle program, spearheaded by Cpl. Jason Brei, is in line with measures being taken at all three of Arizona’s state universities, particularly Arizona State University, Daykin said.

    Over the next few months, UAPD plans to purchase four AR-15 variant rifles, all Smith and Wesson models, he said.

    Each gun will cost a little over $1,000, accounting for the weapon, an optical aiming system and a sling, he said.

    Although the program was devised within the last year, the rifles – the most powerful gun to be located on campus – are not a response to high-profile shootings at Northern Illinois University last month and at Virginia Tech last April, he said.

    In those and other publicized events, including an October 2002 shooting at the UA’s College of Nursing, the shooter typically committed suicide before police arrived on the scene, he said.

    “”It’s really unclear whether having a rifle would have made a difference,”” he said.

    UAPD’s rifles are meant to reduce the amount of time it takes for the department to arrive on campus during an emergency, as well as provide more effective response once officers arrive, he said.

    If a shooting or similar emergency occurred on campus today, UAPD officers would have only revolvers on hand, Daykin said.

    These weapons are accurate up to 50 yards at best, compared to up to 500 yards for a rifle with an optics-based aiming system, presenting issues if officers couldn’t move close to a target or if the target was moving, he said.

    Moreover, if the officers couldn’t get close within 50 yards of a target, they would have to wait until members of the Tucson Police Department or a similar-equipped agency for the appropriate weaponry to be available – an unnecessary delay, he said.

    “”With any luck, we will never use them,”” Daykin said of the rifles. “”But if we need them, we’ll have them.””

    The UAPD hopes to identify up to eight officers to receive training with the weapons by the end of the month, Mejia said.

    To be eligible, they would have to request training, although the department is looking to first instruct officers who have AR-15s or similar enough weapons at home already, he said.

    The initial batch of trainees would attend a session set to occur by the end of the May, followed by up to four officers attending a second session in July, he said.

    The training, totaling approximately 40 hours, will consist of classroom learning, proper handling procedures, target practice and certification courses, he said.

    In addition, trained officers would be subject to further sessions through the calendar year, he said.

    Students said they were wary of UAPD officers having access to rifles, mainly because they thought the UA has a safe enough campus not to warrant them.

    “”With the additional costs of the rifles, is there really a need for it?”” asked Joseph Caglio, a computer engineering senior.

    Sarah Nordlog, a pre-business freshman, acknowledged that a shooting could happen at any time, but added that a more high-powered gun will be only so useful in addressing it.

    “”If someone’s going to do that, they’re going to do it,”” she said. “”I think rifles would probably help. (But) I don’t think it’s going to ever be 100 percent preventable.””

    Henry Barrow, an electrical engineering junior, said he is worried that the addition of the rifles will create a “”malicious state”” on campus.

    While he expects the officers will be trained well enough to prevent any inappropriate use of the guns, “”when you have some strong weapons at your disposal, (their owners) tend to get overwhelmed by the power they have,”” he said.

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