The University of Maryland, College Park has 14 academic colleges, six Nobel Prize winners and four statues of Testudo, the terrapin.
It also has 50 M-16 assault rifles, three military vehicles and a grab bag of other firearms — all acquired from the U.S. Department of Defense, according to an article by Dan Bauman at The Chronicle of Higher Education.
More than 100 colleges across the country have gotten at least some military weaponry from the DOD, thanks to what’s known as the 1033 program.
Under that program, surplus military equipment is transferred to local police departments, including those on college campuses. The program has been around for more than 20 years, but the recent controversy in Ferguson, MO, has brought issues of police militarization to the forefront, renewing public scrutiny of the 1033 program.
Coppin State and Morgan State universities have also acquired a variety of firearms from the military.
But Maryland’s flagship university has more M-16s on campus than all but two schools nationwide (Arizona State University has 70, and Florida International University has 50, just like UMCP).
In a video posted along with the Chronicle article, campus police Chief David Mitchell defended the presence of the equipment.
“The equipment that we have here has saved us a lot of money,” he said. “It has positioned us with equipment that we need — with or without the 1033 program.”
One of the vehicles at UMCP is armored for emergency rescues, and Mitchell said it has never been deployed against students.
“Nor could I ever envision it being deployed against students,” he said in the video. “Heaven forbid that a bad act was committed on campus, I could see it being used to rescue injured parties, including police officers, staff or students.”
The vehicle is strictly maintained for that purpose only, he said.
As for the firearms:
“The longer guns are necessary in today’s society,” Mitchell said. “In the past four years, there’ve been 71 active-shooter incidents in the United States, and about 1 out of every 4 end up in an educational setting, where people are armed, in most cases, with very high-caliber weapons. We need to be able to meet that threat with comparable fire power in order to defeat that threat.”