Madison County (N.C.) Schools Arming Officers with AR-15s
The weapons, in addition to ammo and breaching tools for barricaded doors, will be kept in safes in each school.
Prompted by the Uvalde school shooting, Madison County Schools (MCS) in North Carolina will be placing an AR-15 rifle in each of its schools.
At the start of the school year on Aug. 22, each of the district’s six schools, including three elementary schools, will keep one of the firearms inside a safe, according to Madison County Sheriff Buddy Harwood, who helped lead the initiative. Other resources, such as ammunition and breaching tools for barricaded doors, will also be kept in the safes, National View reports. County residents privately donated money for the purchases.
A preliminary report of the Uvalde shooting describes “lackadaisical” responses by multiple law enforcement agencies. Surveillance video from the school shows dozens of law enforcement officers entering the school and inexplicably waiting over an hour to breach the adjoining classrooms where a gunman shot and killed 19 students and two teachers.
“Those officers were in that building for so long, and that suspect was able to infiltrate that building and injure and kill so many kids. I just want to make sure my deputies are prepared in the event that happens,” Harwood said of the decision in an interview with the Asheville Citizen-Times. “We’ll have those tools to be able to breach that door if needed. I do not want to have to run back out to the car to grab an AR, because that’s time lost. Hopefully we’ll never need it, but I want my guys to be as prepared as prepared can be.”
Some have criticized the decision to stock the schools with high-power weapons. Dorothy Espelage, a UNC-Chapel Hill education professor who has studied school safety and student wellbeing, questioned the initiative in an interview with WLOS.
“Just the presence of an SRO increases violence in the schools,” she said. “Why is it that they have to have these AR-15s? It doesn’t make any sense.”
In a Facebook video, Harwood said a deputy armed with a handgun “isn’t going to stop these animals.”
Others have argued for years that having guns in schools can create more dangerous situations or lead to firearm incidents. Giffords Law Center found nearly 100 publicly reported incidents of mishandled guns in schools within the last five years. One incident involved a student grabbing an officer’s gun while the officer attempted to subdue them.
Training, Additional Safety Initiatives Underway
MCS Superintendent Will Hoffman told NBC News that school administrators have frequently met with local law enforcement officials, including Harwood, to discuss the new plan.
The district’s school resource officers (SROs) have been training with instructors from Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, said Hardwood. He also said his staff has met with State Bureau Investigation officials and other local law enforcement officials and first responders to conduct training throughout the summer.
On Aug. 17, the district and Sheriff’s Office will conduct a live scenario training that includes all teachers. Harwood said his staff participated in two training sessions to prepare for the upcoming live scenario.
Other safety measures being implemented within the district include additional social workers and school counselors at each school and a panic button system that’s connected to a monitoring center. In the fall, MSC will coordinate with the FBI to present to middle school and high school students and their parents and guardians regarding internet safety.
The district will also continue its partnership with the Department of Public Safety to conduct safety checks of its schools.
“No organization can do this alone,” said Hoffman. “That’s why strong community partnerships are integral to our safe school efforts, they are more important now than ever.”