A county in North Carolina is to equip every school in its district with semi-automatic AR-15 rifles in case of attack.
Spurred by the primary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers dead in May, school officials and Madison County Sheriff Buddy Harwood have placed the guns in each of the county’s six schools.
Sheriff Harwood said the AR-15s will be kept inside safes, which will also hold ammunition and breaching tools for barricaded doors.
“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,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll never need it, but I want my guys to be as prepared as can be.”
Adding the semiautomatic weapons is just one part of the Madison County Schools’ enhanced security measures.
Assigning student resource officers, social workers and counsellors to each school, adding a panic button system to every building and having a school district safety liaison are among Madison County’s other safety initiatives.
The Texas massacre in May revealed systemic failures and poor decision-making, with responding police disregarding their active-shooter training, according to a Texas state house report.
Allison Anderman, senior counsel and director of local policy at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said the response to the country's “unique epidemic of gun violence” is “horrific”. “Where there are more guns, there is more gun violence,” she told USA Today.
Ms Anderman said students in the district are “much more likely” to be killed by guns from acts of domestic violence, interpersonal community violence, suicide or accidental shootings.
Dubbed “the most beloved and most vilified rifle”, the semi-automatic was originally designed as a weapon of war.
While handguns account for more deaths per year in the US, AR-15s are frequently used in headline-grabbing mass shootings. The rifle was used by the Uvalde school shooter, as well as Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who shot dead two people and wounded another at a Black Lives Matter protest in Wisconsin.
In the wake of Uvalde, the second worst school shooting in US history, Democrats have pushed for the weapon to be banned and for mandatory background checks for new gun owners. Republicans, meanwhile, have placed an emphasis on America’s mental health crisis rather than its easy access to guns.