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Gun safes to be installed at middle, high schools

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Safety preparation > Safe to hold high- powered weapons for active shooter incidents

By Tris DeRoma

At Thursday’s special school board meeting, Police Chief Dino Sgambellone requested the police department be allowed to install a gun safe inside Los Alamos Middle School and the Los Alamos High School.
Sgambellone said that if an active shooter incident should occur at the schools, he felt it best that his officers have appropriate weaponry on the premises. Too many times he said, valuable time and strategy options are lost if an officer has to go out to his or her car and get what’s needed to stop a shooter.
The cases will be bolted down and in a secure area, Sgambellone said.
Only officers will have access to the case, and the cabinet will only be stocked with the appropriate type and number of weapons and equipment needed to counteract a threat to the school.
When asked about what types of weapons would be stored in the safe, Sgambellone said it would be weapons that are more powerful and effective than the side arms officers normally carry.
“It will be stocked with shotguns and AR 15s,” said Sgambellone. “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.”
At the meeting, Sgambellone emphasized to the board how important it was to the police department’s ongoing training and modern safety standards to have immediate access to firearms at the school.
“The impetus for this request is our recent training and continuing analysis of our response to what we all hope never happens, but we have to plan for it,” he said.
When asked by School Board Member Bill Hargraves about what would prompt an officer to access the case, Sgambellone said only in a school shooting incident.
“There would be no reason to expose that type of weaponry in any situation other than an active shooter,” Sgambellone said.
In his presentation he noted what happened in the 1999 Columbine shootings, when officers held and secured the scene, then waited for a tactical response.
He said that allowed the two shooters to spend seven minutes inside the building shooting and killing people.
“Current training is, if you’re there, whether you’re by yourself or not, you go in because the sooner you can get there and the sooner you can engage that person or persons involved in this type of activity, the less likely they will be able to continue to hurt other people,” Sgambellone said.
The police department has one officer permanently stationed at the high school and one at the middle school, and one officer who routinely patrols the five elementary schools.
Sgambellone said that having gun safes at the high and middle schools could save more lives.
“If an officer has access to weapons and other items, for example a first aid kit or a go bag, that initial contact is going to happen much quicker,” he said.
“Even if an officer is able to exit the school and get to his vehicle and return, those two minutes could result in a significant amount of shooting by the person or persons.”
The school board unanimously approved of the safe installations. The board did not have to vote on the matter since it was an administrative issue.