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BOSTON (CBS) – It is a scenario no one wants to think about, but one that nevertheless demands a plan: an active shooter on a college campus. For Northeastern University, that plan now includes a police force armed with semiautomatic rifles.

“As long as it’s a last resort, I think I’d feel safe,” explained NU freshman Diego Bacigalupe.

According to freshman Rosa Lawrence, “I generally don’t think that having more guns solves anything, but I would rather have the police have them. If anyone on campus should have them it should be the police.”

Campus police say the semiautomatic rifles will only be used during a threat, not day-to-day. Northeastern officials declined an invitation to go on-camera, issuing this statement instead:

“There is no higher priority than the safety and well-being of our campus community. Northeastern University maintains a professional and highly trained police department with more than 60 officers. Like other universities with police departments, our officers are trained to employ a number of capabilities to protect the campus community, including the use of tactical rifles if necessary. University officers work in close coordination with city and state law enforcement, including sharing information about the deployment of tactical capabilities.”

Assault rifle (WBZ-TV)

Assault rifle (WBZ-TV)

Boston Police, however, aren’t so sure. In an email to WBZ, Lieutenant Detective Michael McCarthy said, “What concerns the BPD is when we hear of certain campus police departments that are nestled within city neighborhoods make decisions like this without including the Boston Police and other community stakeholders from the beginning. Our commitment to the community is to be as open and transparent as possible. The Boston Police Department is well equipped and trained to respond within minutes to incidents that require an elevated tactical response. Community Policing and community engagement, two things the Boston Police are experts in, always prove to be a more effective tool than any piece of equipment an officer can carry.”

It’s a sentiment with which the city’s mayor seems to agree. “I get worried about local police like that carrying those rifles,” said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. “I mean, you need a lot of training, it’s tough, and it begins a slippery slope.”

But WBZ’s security analyst and former Boston Police commissioner Ed Davis thinks police need to be armed with the same weapons as the bad guys.

“You’re really asking an officer, whether he’s a university police officer or a local police officer, to go on a suicide mission if they are going after someone with a rifle,” Davis said. “I can’t ask police officers to do something that they don’t have the tools to do, and that’s really the way I look at it.”

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