Sheriff to issue AR-15s to schools in case of active shooter

A North Carolina sheriff has decided to equip schools in his county with AR-15 rifles in case of an active shooter.

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Madison County Sheriff Buddy Harwood suggested the move in June.

“Having a deputy just armed with a handgun isn’t enough to stop these animals,” Harwood said, according to WLOS. “That’s why I’ve decided to arm all of my school resource officers with AR-15 rifles.”

The district’s superintendent said he supports the sheriff’s decision, which was made in the aftermath of the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting that left 19 elementary school students and two teachers dead, The Associated Press reported.

The gunman was in the school for more than an hour before he was confronted and killed by law enforcement, according to a report by a Texas House of Representatives investigative committee.

“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,” Harwood told the Asheville Citizen-Times. “I just want to make sure my deputies are prepared in the event that happens.”

School resource officers will get hours of training and will ensure that the weapons are locked up in safes in an undisclosed location. The county paid for the safes and the guns were paid for by donors, WLOS reported.

The officers will also have access to breaching tools, along with extra magazines and ammunition, all locked in the safes, the Citizen-Times reported.

“The reason we put the breaching tools in the safes is that in the event we have someone barricaded in a door, we won’t have to wait on the fire department to get there,” Harwood told the newspaper. “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.”

The district has six schools, the AP reported.

But not all agree with the move to have AR-15s available in schools to resource officers.

Dr. Dorothy Espelage, an education professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, said that the move makes no sense.

“What’s going to happen is we’re going to have accidents with these guns. Just the presence of an SRO increases violence in the schools. There’s more arrests of kids. Why is it that they have to have these AR-15s? It doesn’t make any sense,” Espelage told WLOS.

A woman in Madison County, who was not identified by WLOS, also does not support the decision, telling the news station, “I would prefer to have the children safe, but then anyone, you don’t know, could get hold of an AR-15. Locks can be broken.”

Espelage has studied school safety and student well-being, according to the news stations.

In addition to the rifles, local law enforcement will also be able to monitor school security cameras, the Citizen-Times reported.

The district, along with the sheriff’s office, will have a live active shooter drill later this month that will involve all of the teachers so they know what will happen in case of a real situation, the newspaper reported.