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Guns, tactics in active shooter situations

According to San Bernardino's police chief, the suspects who went on a rampage Wednesday had two rifles and two handguns, along with thousands of rounds of ammunition.

It was reported that one of the guns used was a DPMS .223 A-15 semi-automatic rifle; the other, a Smith and Wesson M&P 15. Both can be purchased legally after the buyer passes a background check looking for criminal history, domestic violence, drug use or other activity that would disqualify a person from owning a weapon.

Authorities said the weapons appear to have been purchased legally and were registered.

"They are the civilian version of a military-style rifle," said Aaron Cowan, lead instructor at Sage Dynamics. "As far as magazine capacity, in California you are legally limited to 10 rounds in a rifle like that, which I'm pretty sure these people went ahead and broke that."

San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said the suspects fired between 65 and 75 rounds inside a room at the social services building in a rampage that killed 14 people and injured more than 20 more. Cowan said that in that close of an environment, the danger wouldn't just be from a semi-automatic weapon.

"In a closed environment like that, had they used handguns, shotguns, AR 15s, or even if they were using some antiquated revolver system, I think they still could have produced as many, if not more casualties, based on the situation," Cowan said.

In the SUV where police shot and killed husband and wife Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, more than 1,600 rounds of ammunition were found and more than 6,000 more at the suspects' home. Cowan says that in a police shootout with suspects having so much ammo, the military-style equipment his officers have is a huge asset.

"We had a national discussion not long ago about the militarization of police and how they don't need armored vehicles and things like that, but I think the situations like this show you that there is a need for systems like that in the event that something like this occurs," Cowan said.

Officer training and tactical equipment

A police officer was hurt when taking down the San Bernardino suspects, but is expected to recover. Local officers and deputies rushed to the scene and were the first to arrive.
Across the country, officers never really know the magnitude of what they are being called to until they get there and assess the situation.

The Bradford County Sheriff's Office’s SWAT commander said that while the tactical officers are trained for active shooter situations, about a decade ago it became almost mandatory for agencies around the country to train everyone.

Lt. Kevin Mueller said it’s their job to make sure everyone is safe, which means they must go in and try to eliminate the threat, often before the SWAT team can arrive.

"Something that you train for, prepare for, the whole agency prepares for and then you hope it never happens, Mueller said. “But it would be a failure on the community's part, on law enforcement's part, for something like that to happen, and us not be able to respond appropriately"

All officers now wear bullet-proof vests and are issued other tactical equipment. SWAT officers now get Level 4 ballistic vests, which weigh 80 pounds. They also now wear helmets.

Larger agencies also have armed equipment.

"You saw on the news, as the shootout was unfolding, they approached the vehicle with armored vehicles. That's because that's the only way to approach a vehicle where you know you have armed subjects with handguns rifles, shooting,” Mueller said. “We have to have the ability to protect the people."

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams released a statement offering condolences for the people involved in San Bernardino tragedy, then assured the people of Jacksonville that police here are trained in case anything like that happened here.

"As you view the equipment and manpower being utilized there, you should know that behind the armor and the firearms is years of training and expert capabilities that have been honed, enabling first responders to be effective and work to save lives as those sworn to serve and protect. I can assure the citizens of Jacksonville that in that respect our agencies are alike," Williams wrote. "We have the equipment, and more importantly the commitment, skills and capabilities. We look at resources constantly, and work to ensure that our city remains a top tier first responder. I will not expand on what we are doing differently today than we may have been doing two days ago, but we are watching closely, and focused on learning and understanding what the facts are in this, sadly, unfolding tragedy in California."

DOCUMENT: Read Sheriff Williams' complete statement

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith says the JSO is putting all officers through a two-day active shooter program. It takes time to train an entire department, but he says the agency hopes to have it finished by 2017.