Schools officials and Sheriff Buddy Harwood made the decision in the wake of the devastating primary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas in May, which left 19 children and two teachers dead.
The guns in the county’s six schools will be kept under lock and key inside safes, alongside ammunition and tools for breaching barricaded doors.
Other enhanced security measures include assigning student resource officers, installing panic buttons, and giving schools counsellors, social workers and district safety liaison.
Sheriff Harwood said about the guns: “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 can be.”
He told The Asheville Citizen-Times: “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.
“I just want to make sure my deputies are prepared in the event that happens.”
After the Uvalde massacre, the second worst school shooting in US history, questions have been raised over systematic failures in the police response in Texas, when officers disregarded their active-shooter training.
Handguns account for more gun deaths per year in the US, although AR-15s are often used in mass shootings, such as in Uvalde.]
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She added that students are “much more likely” to be killed by guns from suicide, accidental shootings, domestic or interpersonal community violence.
Madison County’s superintendent Will Hoffman said that school administrators have had regular meetings with local law enforcement to discuss the new measures.
He added that he was assured that law enforcement can monitor school camera systems, according to CBS.