Northeastern University is taking what some are calling a controversial step of arming its police force with semiautomatic rifles. University officials say at a time when on-campus shootings appear to be on the rise, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Northeastern is the fifth area college or university to arm select, specially trained police with weapons needed to confront an on campus active shooter. The others are: Boston University, MIT, Tufts, and Umass Boston.

On Northeastern campus there’s a buzz about the campus police and the tactical rifles they now carry. Student Roopali Shreedhar feels safer.

"It's safer on campus to protect us," Shreedhar said. "They're looking out for their students. There’s been a lot going on here so its good for us."

But it's not so good for the Boston Police, according to Commissioner Bill Evans. The university sits in the middle of Boston. Evans told WGBH News that’s his jurisdiction, and arming any campus police in the city is not necessary.

"I can remember having a dialogue not long ago about whether they should be carrying handguns," Evans said. "Now we're talking about a dialogue on whether they should have patrol rifles. Obviously I don’t think they’re necessary. We can be on those campuses within five or six minutes. We're highly trained."

"I understand his concern — his perspective — but I'm also the person responsible for the safety and security of this campus," said Northeastern University Police Chief Michael Davis, who says five or six minutes may be too late.

"My primary concern is what are we doing to make sure we are prepared," Davis said. "The fact of the matter is that we can respond really, really quickly to any emergency on this campus, because we are here."

Davis says his officers are fully-trained, and already carry handguns, but he recently made a decision to train 20 specific officers and have 20 tactical rifles on hand in case of an active shooter on campus.

There have been 353 mass shootings in the united states just this year, according to shootingtracker.com.

"Odds are, these weapons will never see the light of day," Davis said. "We're talking about the very unlikely event that we need to have this level of weaponry be used."

The tactical rifles are new to Northeastern but not to MIT. MIT Police Chief John DiFava says his officers have had semiautomatic or tactical rifles — along with bullet proof vests — in the trunks of their cruisers since 2012.

"Since Columbine, police strategy has changed dramatically and it's now accepted practice that should there be an active shooter situation where you have a gunman inside a building that’s firing rounds, that you no longer have time to wait for the tactical units," DiFava said. "The officers have to make immediate entry."

Northeastern students we spoke to say whether it's campus police or Boston Police, it’s better to have tactical rifles in the hands of trained professionals.

"If they feel it's better to keep the students safe then why not?" Shreedhar said. "Better to keep the weapons in the hands of these officers than in the hands of anybody who’s trying to cause harm."

Davis says this is exactly why his team has to be prepared.