Originally published on September 22, 2014, at NationofChange.org
Due to public outcry, school districts nationwide are debating whether to keep their Pentagon-issued assault rifles, grenade launchers, and Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles. Donated free of charge as part of the Defense Department’s 1033 Program, surplus military equipment has been dispensed throughout law enforcement agencies and school districts for decades. Recent criticisms of excessive police militarization in Ferguson, Missouri, last month has left many school officials questioning the need for military-grade weapons on campus.
According to the Defense Logistics Agency, over $5 billion in military equipment has been handed out to more than 8,000 law enforcement agencies and at least 26 school districts since 2007. California alone has received 8,533 surplus guns, 7,094 pieces of night-vision equipment, 2,370 bayonets and knives, 49 armored vehicles, 59 airplanes and helicopters, and 18 grenade launchers since 2006.
A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed last month revealed that 61 M16 rifles, 3 grenade launchers, and an MRAP have been transferred to the Los Angeles School Police Department. According to California’s Office of Emergency Services, the Baldwin Park School Police Department received three M16 rifles that they plan to return, while Kern High School District Police received 30 magazines for M4 assault rifle ammunition. Although the Los Angeles Unified School District has agreed to return the grenade launchers, they refuse to relinquish the assault rifles and mine-resistant vehicle.