A North Carolina school district has taken a controversial move to increase security following recent school shootings across the country.
On Friday, Madison County Schools in western North Carolina announced that, in conjunction with the county sheriff’s office, it would equip every building in the district with an AR-15 assault rifle. Asheville Citizen Times. The action comes in response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May, in which a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers.
In the wake of the tragedy, a new national conversation about gun violence and safety has sparked, with some calling for tougher gun laws and others urging stricter safety in schools. Madison County Sheriff Buddy Harwood said the decision was made to help his deputies be prepared to take action in the event of an active shooting situation in the district.
“Those officers were in that building for so long and that suspect was able to break into that building and injure and kill so many children,” the sheriff told the newspaper. “I just want to make sure my delegates are prepared if that happens.”
In addition to the firearms, Harwood said every school building in the district is equipped with a safe, which can store extra ammunition for the guns. The vaults will also be filled with “breaching tools”, which can be used in the event that a gunman has barricaded himself in a classroom, as happened in Uvalde.
“The reason we put the breaking tools in the safes is because if we barricaded someone in a door, we don’t have to wait for the fire department to get there,” Harwood said. “We’ll have those tools to break through that door if we need to. I don’t want to have to run back to the car to grab an AR because that’s wasted time. Hopefully we never need it, but I want to that my boys are as prepared as possible.”
Madison County Schools currently has six locations: Brush Creek Elementary, Hot Springs Elementary, Mars Hill Elementary, Madison Middle School, Madison High School, and Madison Early College High.
The school district’s decision has repercussions
Gun safety experts and lawyers have rejected the decision in Madison County. Allison Anderman, senior adviser and director of local policy at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, called the move “horrific” in response to mass shootings, in a statement to USA today.
“Where there are more guns, there is more gun violence,” she said.
In a tweet, Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, a gun safety advocacy group, also criticized the move, echoing Anderman’s sense that more firearms are not the solution.
“What problem are these North Carolina sheriffs solving?” Watts wrote. “The hundreds of officers at Uvalde had access to AR-15s, but chose not to use an assault rifle gunner with a death wish. ‘WON MORE’ is not a solution – keeping guns away from children/teenagers is.”
News week contacted Madison County Schools for comment.