North Carolina district putting AR-15s and police in every school to stop shootings

·3 min read

Concerned with the ongoing threat of mass shootings, a North Carolina county is putting highly powered AR-15-style rifles in every school for the coming school year -- the very same weapon used in numerous mass killings in recent years.

The six schools in Madison County, a rural area north of Asheville, will now have the assault rifles stored on campus in gun safes, alongside room-breaching tools. The schools will also deploy a police school resource officer (SRO) inside for the coming school year, and install a panic button system.

Local officials said the failed police response to the Uvalde mass school shooting in Texas inspired them to take extra measure

"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 Buddy Harwood told the Asheville Citizen-Times. “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."

The sheriff announced the initiative in June.

“Every day you turn on the TV and somebody’s been shot, somebody’s been stabbed, somebody’s been murdered, raped,” he said in an accompanying Facebook video. “We live in Western North Carolina, a rural county, but we’ve got to be prepared even in our rural counties for the enemy when he tries to come in and destroy our children.”

Some local residents helped fund the new programme, but not everyone is pleased with the decision to put the guns in the schools.

“It’s called hardening of the schools,” professor Dorothy Espelage, who studies education at the University of North Carolina told WLOS. “What’s going to happen is we’re going to have accidents with these guns. Just the presence of an SRO increases violence in the schools.”

As The Independent has reported, school districts around the country have been calling for more, better-armed police on campus in the wake of Uvalde, even though research suggests armed officers do next to nothing to stop school shootings and often single out students of colour for violence and arrest.

“That’s one of the maybe disappointing takeaways and very important takeaways, given that that’s some of the justification and reason many schools are using police,” Professor F Chris Curran, director of the Education Policy Research Center at the University of Florida, told The Independent. “In some ways, it resonates with what we know anecdotally. You can look at Parkland right here in Florida. They had an SRO in the school and it didn’t deter and didn’t effectively stop the perpetrator from taking a lot of lives.”

Nonetheless, states around the country are putting more police in schools, as well as arming teachers.

At least 29 states allow people other than police to carry guns on campus, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In Ohio, a new law allows teachers to bear arms with less than 24 hours of training, a provision that’s been criticised by some law enforcement groups.

“That, to us, is just outrageous,” Michael Weinman, director of government affairs for the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio, the state’s largest law enforcement organization, told The New York Times in July.

Following the 2018 Parkland shooting in Florida, the state required armed personnel on all school grounds, a group that can include law enforcement or school staff.

In Texas, at least a third of schools are active in a security initiative that allows staff to be armed guards.