California is a hostile place to live if you’re a gun owner. The state is placed number one on the Brady Campaign’s State Score Card list [PDF], which is based on how many stupid gun control laws each state has on the books. You would think that a state so hostile to gun ownership would be a devoid of militarism. But that’s not the case. In fact California lays claim to the only be the only state that I’m aware of where school districts own armored personnel carriers:
News that San Diego Unified School District has acquired an MRAP, or mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, is adding a new facet to discussions about the practice of giving surplus military equipment to civilian agencies.
The six-wheel Caiman MRAP has an official value of around $733,000. But the San Diego school district paid only about $5,000 to transport it, according to inewsource.org, a website that partners with NPR member station KPBS.
$5,000 could buy a lot of text books and that price doesn’t cover the yearly upkeep fees and cost to fuel the machine. Why did the district feel it was a good use of its money to buy an armored personnel carrier instead of equipment to better enable education? Probably because schools are more closely reflecting prisons every day and to complete the image districts need a way of rounding up truant students in the same way prisons round up escaped convicts. But San Diego doesn’t have the title of most militarized school district. That title belongs to the Los Angeles Unified School District:
os Angeles Unified school police officials said Tuesday that the department will relinquish some of the military weaponry it acquired through a federal program that furnishes local law enforcement with surplus equipment. The move comes as education and civil rights groups have called on the U.S. Department of Defense to halt the practice for schools.
The Los Angeles School Police Department, which serves the nation’s second-largest school system, will return three grenade launchers but intends to keep 61 rifles and a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle it received through the program.
An armored personnel carrier and surplus military rifles (later in the story it notes that the rifles were converted to semi-automatic)? Talk about rounding up students in style! But the district did return the grenade launchers, I guess it realized that most parties sent to round up convicts don’t usually bring heavy ordinance.
The San Diego district justified its purchase of the armored personnel carrier by saying it is for search and rescue and that the behemoth will be loaded with medical supplies. I guess the district has some policy against calling an ambulance, which is loaded with medical supplies and comes equipped with trained medical personnel. The Los Angeles district didn’t beat around the bush, it went straight for the school shooting scare excuse. Of course the Los Angeles Police Department was the first department in the country to have a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team and is well known for being extremely militarized already. Why the school district believes it needs its own team when it can call in the LAPD is beyond me, especially when you look at the statistics and see how rare school shootings actually are (which isn’t to say they don’t happen but the risk doesn’t warrant the establishment of a separate SWAT team for the district).
Truthfully these school districts are just following in the footsteps of police departments throughout the country. The federal government is giving away free or near free shit to local government agencies and those agencies are snapping it up like a shopper snapping up shit they weren’t going to buy until it they say that it was marked down for the store’s going out of business sale. In other words the government, by subsidizing the purchase of military equipment, has further distorted the market by making the military equipment look more appealing than shit local agencies could actually use (like, say, deescalation training for police officers).