- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Schools in a rural North Carolina county will now stock an AR-15 assault rifle as officials beef up security measures in the wake of May’s deadly mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Madison County Schools and the Madison County Sheriff’s Office came to the decision together and will provide a safe for each school to stow the semi-automatic rifle, extra magazines and breaching tools to break through an attacker’s barricade, according to the Asheville Citizen Times.

“We’ll have those tools to be able to breach that door if needed,” Sheriff Buddy Harwood told the paper. “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.”

Superintendent Will Hoffman also noted in a Monday statement that the school system will fund school resource officers (SROs) for each of the district’s schools — which include three elementary schools, a middle school and two high schools.

Sheriff Harwood said he understands why some people may not like the idea of SROs potentially handling AR-15s, but called it a necessary change following the Uvalde rampage that saw 19 students and two teachers killed by a lone gunman.

“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,” Sheriff Harwood told the paper.

The SROs and teachers will take part in a training exercise later this month on how to handle emergency scenarios.

Other new safety measures include a panic button system that reports to a monitoring center in each school building, as well as bringing on a safety liaison for the school system.

• Matt Delaney can be reached at mdelaney@washingtontimes.com.

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