Madison County, North Carolina, plans to put semi-automatic rifles in each of its six schools heading into the 2022-2023 school year for enhanced security in the case of an active shooter threat.
County Sheriff Buddy Harwood announced that the rifles will be stored in secured safes at each of the county’s elementary, middle, and high schools.
“We were able to put an AR-15 rifle and safe in all of our schools in the county,” Harwood said.
“We’ve also got breaching tools to go into those safes. We’ve got extra magazines with ammo in those safes.”
"We were able to put an #AR15 rifle and safe in all of our schools," Sheriff Buddy Harwood said. "We've also got breaching tools to go into those safes. We've got extra magazines with ammo in those safes."#ncpol #MadisonCountyNC #schoolsafetyhttps://t.co/5g6xbHIh71
— Progress NC Action (@ProgressNow_NC) August 7, 2022
There are six schools in the Madison County system: Brush Creek Elementary, Hot Springs Elementary, Mars Hill Elementary, Madison Middle, Madison High and Madison Early College High.
“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 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.”
The enhanced security measures come in response to the Uvalde school shooting that left 19 children dead on May 24th.
“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,” Sheriff Buddy Harwood said.
“I just want to make sure my deputies are prepared in the event that happens.”
Further details from Citizen Times:
Harwood said he feels while the optics of the SROs potentially handling AR-15s in schools may be discomforting to some, it is a necessary response given the state of the country.
“I’m a firearms instructor. We carry a (9 mm) 135-grain bullet,” Harwood said. “We’ve got the maximum 50 rounds that my SROs are carrying throughout the school to protect that school.
“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. 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.”
Harwood said his staff have met with SBI officials, as well as Kevin West, Mars Hill University’s director of safety and security, as well as other local law enforcement officials and first responders to conduct training throughout the summer.
On Aug. 17, the school system and Sheriff’s Office will conduct a live scenario to replicate a high-impact incident requiring emergency response.
“The scenario will incorporate all of our teachers, just to prepare them what to look for in the event we have to come into a school,” Harwood said. “We’ve got helicopters that will be there. It will be a live situation. We’ll do the classroom portion of it in the morning.”
According to Harwood, his staff have participated in two training sessions for the upcoming live scenario.
“I’ve got a whole host of people that are very capable of putting this training on,” Harwood said. “It is sponsored through A-B Tech, so my guys will get training hours for it, including the fire departments.”