After a firestorm of questions from parents and school board members, the Pinellas County school district’s internal police force will return 28 military surplus M16 assault rifles it purchased.

Schools Police Chief Rick Stelljes sent a letter to Superintendent Michael Grego asking him to return the weapons, purchased through the Department of Defense 1033 Program.

School Board Chairwoman Carol Cook said the board didn’t know the guns had been purchased until it was reported by the media. “It was a misstep, for sure,” Cook said.

Stelljes and Grego began looking into the equipment after the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Cook said. The tragedy sparked conversations with legislators and school districts about more armed police in schools, as well as increasing other security measures.

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