US Marshal Fills County Schools With AR-15 Rifles

MARSHALL, North Carolina –

When schools in a North Carolina county reopen later this month, new security measures will include storage of AR-15 rifles for use by school resource officers in the event of an active shooter.

Prompted by the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers dead in May, school officials and Madison County Sheriff Buddy Harwood planted one of the semi-automatic rifles in each of the six county schools. Each of the weapons will be kept inside a safe, Harwood said.

The North Carolina school district and the sheriff’s office are collaborating to improve security after the Uvalde shooting revealed systemic flaws and “extremely poor decision-making,” resulting in more than an hour of chaos before that the gunman was eventually confronted and killed by police, according to a report written by a Texas House 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 children,” Harwood told the Asheville Citizen Times. “I just want to make sure my agents are prepared in case that happens.”

The idea of ​​having AR-15s in schools doesn’t sit well with Dorothy Espelage, a professor in the UNC Chapel Hill College of Education who has conducted decades of study and research on school safety and student well-being.

“What is going to happen is that we are going to have accidents with these weapons,” Espelage told WLOS-TV. Just the presence of an SRO increases violence in schools. There are more arrests of children. these AR-15? It does not make any sense”.

Madison County Schools Superintendent Will Hoffman said school administrators have been meeting regularly with local law enforcement officials, including Harwood, to discuss updated security measures.

Harwood said the county’s school resource officers have been training with instructors from Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.

Harwood said the safes where the AR-15s will be kept will also contain ammunition and tools to break down barricaded doors.

We’ll have those tools so we can breach that door if need be. I don’t want to have to run back to the car to grab an AR, because that’s wasted time. Hopefully we’ll never need it, but I want my guys to be as prepared as possible,” he said.

Schools are scheduled to reopen Aug. 22, according to the Madison County Schools website.

While the lens of school resource officers potentially handling AR-15s in schools may be uncomfortable for some, Harwood said he thinks it’s a necessary response.

“I hate that we have gotten to a place in our nation where I have to put a safe in our schools and lock that safe so my officers can acquire an AR-15. But we can turn it off and say it’s not going to happen in Madison County, but you never know,” Harwood said.

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