North Carolina Schools to Stock AR-15s to Prevent Uvalde Repeat

Prompted by the Uvalde massacre that left 19 children and two teachers dead in May, a North Carolina county is preparing for future active-shooter situations by supplying its schools’ law enforcement officers with AR-15 rifles.

At the start of the fall semester in a couple weeks, each of the district’s six schools will keep one of the firearms inside a safe, Madison County Sheriff Buddy Harwood, who helped lead the initiative, told NBC News.

The North Carolina school district and sheriff’s office are working to bolster school security and prevent a repeat of the mistakes of the Uvalde tragedy, in which a gunman stormed a Texas elementary school and unleashed a murderous rampage without meeting armed police deterrence.

Pete Arredondo, chief of the school-district police at the time, did not take an active posture as “incident commander” during the shooting even though it was widely believed he was in charge. A report released by an investigative committee of the Texas House concluded that nearly 400 police officers representing local, state, and federal agencies failed to take urgent action at Robb Elementary School, resulting in “systemic failures” that gave the gunman a window to take 21 lives and injure 17 more.

“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.”

There is some concern, among Democratic lawmakers specifically, that stocking schools with lethal weapons is an unneeded liability and risk to the faculty and students. School administrators have met with local law enforcement officials, including Harwood, frequently to discuss the new safety plan, Madison County Schools Superintendent Will Hoffman told NBC News.

The district’s school resource officers, special law enforcement personnel assigned to patrol and protect schools, have been training with instructors from Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, Harwood said.

Since Uvalde, Texas has also taken innovative precautions under the direction of Governor Greg Abbott. For instance, the state will test the strength and weakness of its schools’ defensive systems this fall by conducting random intruder drills as well as providing active-shooter training to school-based law enforcement.

In Madison County schools, other resources such as ammunition and breaching tools for barricaded doors will be kept in the safes with the AR-15s, Harwood said.

“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,” he said.

Having an AR-15 available to be deployed, while unsettling to some, can provide school law enforcement with important tactical advantage to neutralize an active shooter, Harwood suggested.

“I hate that we’ve come to a place in our nation where I’ve got to put a safe in our schools, and lock that safe up for my deputies to be able to acquire an AR-15. But, we can shut it off and say it won’t happen in Madison County, but we never know,” he said.

More from National Review