What could possibly go wrong with this plan?

While the militarization of police departments has been getting some scrutiny, what has not received much media attention is that some school districts are also purchasing heavy weaponry under the same program in which the government gives away its military hardware.

This website reveals the names of some school districts that have taken possession of an astounding array of deadly weapons. The Los Angeles school district has obtained 61 M16 assault rifles, three grenade launchers, and a mine-resistant protective vehicle. What is the last item? It refers to what is known as an MRAP.

Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected is an American term for vehicles that are designed specifically to withstand improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and ambushes.

I can see why they would need grenade launchers. Young children can get very cranky, especially when they have not had their naps, and can run wild. And since they are so small and can move fast, they are not easy to pick off with M16 assault rifles. A grenade would be much more effective.

School officials have tried to downplay the revelations.

[Steve Zipperman, chief of L.A. Unified’s police department] assured me that the school police never had any intention of lobbing grenades at anyone, ever, and that they would not be used against students to launch anything.

Why am I not reassured?


  1. says

    school district has obtained 61 M16 assault rifles

    They will almost certainly suffer a certain amount of “evaporation” and will eventually wind up in criminal hands (because someone who purloins a full-auto weapon is, by definition, a criminal)

    Agencies have a terrible record in terms of losing guns and ammunition. Even the FBI has documented losing hundreds of automatic weapons including a few heavy machine guns. Having some personal experience with heavy machine guns, I can assert with confidence that they have a relatively low vapor pressure and do not merely “evaporate” – in fact they’re hard for one person to move…

  2. kraut says

    while I can see the use of machine guns against potential and actual troublemakers in schools, and the use of a mine protective vehicle for the principal seem to be appropriate, the use of grenades seem somehow disproportionate and indiscriminate in taking out potential disturbers of the school peace.

  3. kraut says

    You see – those are governmental policies in various countries. We are talking here school internal control of trouble makers. There you want a more targeted and discriminatory approach.
    Grenade launchers fail in this respect, the same as flamethrowers would.

    My question however is: who supplies the training to the school staff, and are they going to build appropriate armories to house the ammo and the weaponry? You know, the problem of evaporation and effective utilization.

  4. lorn says

    Be careful with the terminology. Machine guns are categorized as light, medium and heavy. It is a sloppy and slightly inconsistent system but it is a well understood and accepted system.

    Light machine gun – Some, depending on use, are termed a squad automatic weapons. Typically these are selective-fire battle rifle caliber, recently smaller high-velocity, weapons fed by magazines larger than the main battle rifle. This designation was clear before large-magazine assault rifles became popular in WW2. Light machine guns are designated to provide greater volume and duration of fire to support riflemen. They are almost always fired while held or from a bipod. The American BAR and Russian DP are classic examples. The more modern M-249 SAW is a good example of the smaller bore, 5.56mm, version.

    Medium machine guns – Typically firing a full sized (roughly 30 caliber/7.62mm) rifle round and fed with a belt or link system to allow near continuous fire. These are fired as medium machine guns while hand-held or from a bipod. Medium machine guns are typically fired as crew-served weapons with a gunner aiming and loader but may be fired by one person with significant loss of accuracy and fortitude.

    Heavy machine gun – There are two ways of defining this. The easiest to catch is that any automatic weapon firing a round significantly heavier than standard full-sized rifle round (usually defined as roughly 30 caliber or 7.92mm) is a heavy machine gun. The US M-2 .50 caliber machine gun is, by any estimation, a heavy machine gun. Likewise the Russian 12.7mm. The M-2 .50 is 84 pounds without the 45 pound tripod you will need to hold it while you shoot. 100 rounds of .50 BMG weighs about 35 pounds. Figure at least four people to move it and the necessary accoutrements on foot.

    The other definition is that a heavy machine gun is a medium machine gun with a water-cooled barrel, or one that can be changed in the field, and mounted on a tripod. Water cooling or changing barrels allows near continuous fire without the barrel melting. The tripod allows tightly controlled area fire and accurate laying on predesignated areas at longer range.

    Disappearing weapons are largely a function of the sorts of weapons controls implemented within most police departments. A policeman or sheriff’s deputy is issued a vehicle and weapons. Cruisers get driven home and major firearms are typically locked into the trunk. Larger departments usually have regular inspections to make sure the weapons are present, in good condition, and are stored properly. Smaller departments are often more casual and after years of carrying, practicing, cleaning the weapon the tacit understanding is that they are, or have become, the officer’s property.

    This isn’t seen as a major problem because the M-16 is not really any different than many weapons in any gun shop. Most weapons in your typical gun shop are semi-automatic, firing one round at each pull of the trigger, but fully automatic weapons, firing repeatedly until the trigger is released or the ammunition expended, are not rare. They are legal for anyone legally allowed to possess firearms as long as you pay for a $200 per weapon tax stamp. This is nationwide with the exception of California, NY and a few other states which have state laws outlawing them. As I understand it there is a law enforcement exception in all the disallowing states. This later point is one of the reasons for joining the department as a reserve officer.

    IMHO, I don’t like, or see the reasons behind, the routine use of military weapons and tactics by the police. Everything gained by it is lost in alienation and loss of vital connections with the populous. Even the ‘Bat belt’ look of most police is largely counterproductive. Having an array of tools and keeping a complex matrix of use-of-force protocols is a distraction from real human connection and situational awareness.

  5. sailor1031 says

    Grenade launchers fail in this respect, the same as flamethrowers would.

    Are you saying we would, or should, care about a little colateral damage? That’d be a first!

  6. says

    I must admit that the MRAP strikes me as a useful vehicle for schoolmasters: I remember that I used to make a lot of what would now be called IEDs back in School!
    (It was a more innocent age and I never blew up anyone much)
    I did one of my weird short radio essays on the horror of it all
    “… there was the incident of Bucket and the matchlock. Bucket built a matchlock rifle (though it was actually smooth bored) and I made gunpowder for it, a good batch—a damn good batch; and one day, out on Aldeby Marshes, to test it he took careful aim down a long water-filled dyke, fired, sent his slug to splash … Oh a good hundred yards down the dyke—and the end-plug of the gun (thank goodness he must have flinched as he fired) to whistling past his ear almost as far behind him. Now THAT was what I called a good batch of gunpowder, and a bit of good luck that day for him, as he of course just managed to avoid kicking the bucket.

    Now-a-days no doubt I would be arrested as a potential terrorist or worse, but even back in those less paranoid times, of course, things still came to a head—quite literally, and indeed to mine! When working on some solid rocket fuel and wearing a safety mask like a wimp I raised the grubby thing for a moment for a clearer view of my work at the exact moment that the mix chose to demonstrate how unstable both it and my fate could be. I ended up in a lot of pain and hospital, with eyes like frosted glass and a face like a jack-o-lantern long after halloween.

    That was a pretty good batch too.

    Finally: I suppose if they HAD been a bit more strict in those days both my eyes would now work as Nature and the makers of Jaws-3D (not to mention those horrible red and green lensed glasses) intended, but what can you do…”

  7. kraut says

    Reminds me of the time when a friend and I tried to cook a batch of Nitro. Got everything together (no problems, Drugstores at that time in the early sixties had all kinds of chemicals easily available) and went to a secret location in the bushes close to a railway track.
    Couldn’t control the temperature at one of the stages and ran…luckily nothing went boom. Those were the days of freedom…

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