A Los Angeles-area city’s school district is now protected by school police armed with semiautomatic rifles that officials say could prevent a massacre, according to The Associated Press.

Fontana Unified School District police purchased 14 of the Colt LE6940 rifle last fall, and they were delivered the first week of December – a week before the Newtown, Conn., school shooting. Over the holiday break, the 40,000-student school district’s 14 school police officers received 40 hours of training on the rifles, and the officers will check them out for each shift from a fireproof safe in the police force’s main office, the article says.

Fontana school police Chief Billy Green says he used money from fingerprinting fees to purchase the guns for $14,000 after identifying a “critical vulnerability” in his force’s ability to protect children, AP reports. The officers, who already wear sidearms, would not have been able to stop a shooter like in Newtown, he said Wednesday.

Some parents and students are reacting with alarm to the news that school resource officers will be issued rifles during their shifts. The officers split their time among 44 schools in the district and keep the rifles in a safe at their assigned school or secured in their patrol car each day before returning it to the school police headquarters each night, AP reports.

Other students told AP that they felt disillusioned that officials would spend money on rifles while the district eliminated its comprehensive guidance counseling program two years ago.

Other Southern California districts also have rifle programs – some that have been in operation for several years. The district came up with the school rifle program after consulting with top school safety experts and looking at what other large districts had done, AP reports.

The Los Angeles School Police Department deploys rifles to its officers as needed, and the Santa Ana Unified School District in Orange County has had a rifle program similar to the one in Fontana for about two years, the article says.