(The Hill) — The school system in Madison County, N.C., plans to put AR-15 rifles in emergency safes in each of its six schools as a part of a plan for enhanced security in the wake of the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting earlier this year.
“We were able to put an AR-15 rifle and safes in all of our schools in the county,” Sheriff Buddy Harwood told the Asheville Citizen-Times. “We’ve also got breaching tools to go into those safes. We’ve got extra magazines with ammo in those safes.”
The breaching tools are intended to allow police to break down barricaded doors without having to wait for the fire department.
Harwood said that he wants to “make sure my deputies are prepared” in the event of a school shooting, especially after the Uvalde police failed to take down the shooter at Robb Elementary School for over an hour.
“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,” said Harwood.
“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 added.
The schools where the safes will be located are Brush Creek Elementary, Hot Springs Elementary, Mars Hill Elementary, Madison Middle, Madison High and Madison Early College High.
Madison County Schools Superintendent Will Hoffman said that the system’s administration has been in regular contact with Harwood and the rest of the police department about school security.
“Our partnership with law enforcement is a critical part of our daily preparations. We have to be vigilant and prepared for any possibility at any time. Our students have to feel safe in order to be safe,” said Hoffman.
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Harwood acknowledged that people might have concerns about AR-15s being located in school, but he argued that it would be safer on the whole.
“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.
Harwood continued: “I want the parents of Madison County to know we’re going to take every measure necessary to ensure our kids are safe in this school system. If my parents, as a whole, want me to stand at that door with that AR strapped around that officer’s neck, then I’m going to do whatever my parents want as a whole to keep our kids safe.”