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credit: mothenaturenetwork

I’ll begin my annual update of the school attacks series next Tuesday, 08-23-22.  School will already have begun pretty much everywhere, and perhaps parents, teachers and school administrators will be more receptive to the ideas I provide in that series.  As sort of a related preview, I begin with this article about what Madison County, NC thinks a good idea.

Madison County, North Carolina, is planning 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. The six schools will also store breaching tools and ammunition in the safes that law enforcement could access in the case of an emergency.

‘We were able to put an AR-15 rifle and safe in all of our schools in the county,’ Harwood told the Asheville Citizen Times. ‘We’ve also got breaching tools to go into those safes. We’ve got extra magazines with ammo in those safes.’

The Sheriff said that storing the breaching tools and AR-15s in school safes will help law enforcement act more quickly in the case of an emergency. Having the option to obtain a semi-automatic weapon in the instance of an active school shooter could save time and help law enforcement officers save lives, according to Harwood.

‘Hopefully we’ll never need it, but I want my guys to be as prepared as prepared can be,’ the Sheriff commented.

Harwood admitted that storing semi-automatic rifles in schools is not ideal, but said it’s necessary given the recent school shootings around the country. ‘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,’ he said.

A common AR-15 variant

The article goes on to attribute the storage of an AR in each school to the Uvalde attack.  Some of the brass of the many agencies responding to that debacle complained they couldn’t stop the killer because they didn’t immediately have rifles and other heavier hardware.  The SMM Uvalde archive is here.  

One of the best ways to determine if the people in charge of a school district, or a state, are serious adults is the issue of teachers and staff carrying concealed handguns in schools.  It is the delineating factor between feeling safe and doing what is necessary to actually be as safe as possible.  Those that rely on “gun free school zone” signs and virtue signaling in general loudly proclaim everyone can feel safe because they “got guns out of schools.”  Of course, all they’ve done is disarmed the innocent and assured mass murderers they have a free fire zone where they’ll be able to kill a great many teachers and children before any police response can possibly interfere with them.  With only a few exceptions, the police have had no role in stopping school attacks.  Killers usually kill themselves, or less often, escape before the police can interfere with them.  These people live in a reality of their own making, a reality where good intentions and imaginary intellectual and moral superiority make a thing so because they say it is so.  They believe additional gun laws can stop people plotting the mass murder of children.

In the world of real reality, the only thing that can stop a killer with a gun when and where he strikes—school killers are virtually always male—is an honest man or woman with a gun.  Unless teachers and staff are armed and prepared when and where an attack occurs, the only thing that will limit the toll of wounded and dead will be the good will or lack of marksmanship of a madman.  Only allowing willing, capable teachers and staff to carry concealed, widely publicizing that fact, and never revealing how many, if any, are carrying at each school provides deterrence, and when deterrence fails, a means to prevent any injuries of deaths, or at least to limit them.

Let’s quickly explore the state of the law in North Carolina.  I’m presenting what I’ve been able to find on this issue.  By all means, gentle readers, if you have more up to date information, please provide it in the comments.  We begin with this June, 2021 article:

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A bill that would have allowed concealed carry permit holders to have a handgun in a place of religious worship that is also educational property has been vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper.

‘For the safety of students and teachers, North Carolina should keep guns off school grounds,’ the governor said in a statement Friday about Senate Bill 43.

The governor previously vetoed a similar bill that passed in the General Assembly in 2019. Cooper released a statement afterward saying: “This bill allows guns on school property which threatens the safety of students and teachers.”

Under current law, regardless of having a permit, weapons are not allowed on any form of school property, even if it is in a church. It is a Class I felony to possess or carry any gun on educational property.

Here is the applicable state statute, 14-269.2:

It shall be a Class I felony for any person knowingly to possess or carry, whether openly or concealed, any gun, rifle, pistol, or other firearm of any kind on educational property or to a curricular or extracurricular activity sponsored by a school. Unless the conduct is covered under some other provision of law providing greater punishment, any person who willfully discharges a firearm of any kind on educational property is guilty of a Class F felony. However, this subsection does not apply to a BB gun, stun gun, air rifle, or air pistol.

As far as I can determine, exercising the Second Amendment on school grounds in North Carolina, thanks to Governor Cooper, can, and surely will, land one in state prison.  Oddly, school attackers seem not to be intimidated or deterred by such laws.  It appears Sheriff Harwood is trying to finesse the law by storing ARs on school property.  His heart is obviously in the right place, and it’s better than nothing, but not by much.

Police response time to any school attack is always slow.  There have been a few school attacks, such as Newtown and Uvalde, where the first officer has managed to arrive within 4 or 5 minutes, but that shouldn’t be confused with how long it took them to enter, find, or engage an attacker.  At Newtown, the killer had been dead by his own hand for some five minutes before officers entered, and at Uvalde, well… Experience indicates the police can’t possibly be in a position to actually stop an attacker for at least 10-15 minutes from the time the police are informed of an attack.  In other words, an attack begins, it takes up to five minutes for anyone to call the police, another 30 seconds to a minute for the call to be dispatched to officers via in-vehicle computers or radio, and it is only then officers have a chance to race to the school from wherever they are.  Most Americans would be shocked to learn how few officers are working during school hours, and particularly when they rely on a county sheriff’s office, how far those deputies will likely have to drive to get to the school. Staffing, distance, traffic, weather and more will determine how long it takes for the first officer to arrive in the parking lot.

The venerable police saying: “when seconds count, the police are minutes away,” is nowhere more applicable than in school attacks.

What’s the problem with locking an AR in a safe?  Think in terms of problems:

*Vanishingly rare is the police officer who knows the interior layout of the schools in their jurisdiction.  To people who don’t work there daily, they’re mazes.  Even if officers have a list with the location of the safe in each building, they’re still going to waste time trying to find it.

*Shooters knowing there’s an AR on the premises may well hold school staff hostage to get that rifle.  There’s an old saying to the effect that handguns are primarily useful for fighting one’s way to a rifle.

*Unless all safes are keyed, through various means, alike, that’s another waste of precious time.  If an officer doesn’t have the combination, or fumbles it…

*Imagine a deputy rushing into a school hearing gunfire in a distant part of the building.  Does he immediately rush to the sound with his handgun, or waste time trying to find an AR locked in a safe in another part of the building?  Note I’m assuming officers will, from now on, not waste time as at Uvalde.

*This is perhaps the biggest problem: All firearms, and particularly rifles, must be sighted in for a single user.  As I’ve repeatedly written, the police are rarely expert in the use of their handguns.  Their hit probability, nationwide, is abysmal.  This despite the fact they usually qualify at least once a year with their handguns.  If they have rifles, because rifle ammunition is much more expensive, qualifications are usually far less frequent, and rifles tend to be assigned to police vehicles shared by multiple officers rather than to individual officers.

Yes, it’s a backward mounted sight.

*Many, perhaps most, police officers are barely familiar with the operation of their handguns.  Ability with a rifle, particularly one an officer would have likely never fired or even held, is even less likely to materialize.  AR-type rifles with their high sight lines, require specific knowledge and skill because they do not shoot to point of aim, even if one knows what that point or aim is, at the kinds of short ranges one encounters indoors, even if they’re properly zeroed for a single shooter.

What happens if a rifle double feeds?  What happens if it doesn’t fully go into battery and the officer has no idea what the forward assist does?  Are they all trained in malfunction clearance drills?

It would appear Sheriff Harwood’s deputies do not carry personal rifles in their vehicles.  If they did, there would be no need for rifles locked in safes in schools.  By the way, should anyone other than a law enforcement officer so much as touch one of those rifles, they’d be committing a felony.  So much for their usefulness for school staff.

We have no idea if these rifles have optics such as red dot sights, or if they have only iron sights.  Can the responding officer even figure out how to activate an electronic sight he’s never seen? Are the batteries up to date? How many rounds are loaded in each magazine?  In either case, no sane person should rely on an unfamiliar rifle.  Having no idea where that rifle will shoot–well, the danger should be obvious.  Perhaps deputies get to shoot the six rifles once a year or so.  But when they rush into a school, they have to remember where the sights on that particular rifle were set.  Is this the one that hits 5” low and 8” left at 20 yards, or the one that hits 8” high and 6” right?  Or is it the one they couldn’t get to hit a standard target at all?  That’s why, gentle readers, sights have to be zeroed for every individual user.

Final Thoughts:  A rifle locked in a safe is all but useless to deputies rushing into a school with the sound of gunfire echoing through the hallways.  Their mandate is to run to the sound of gunfire and neutralize the shooter as soon as possible.  Either they’re going to do that, or they’re going to consciously take the time to get an AR while children and teachers are dying.  And that, gentle readers, is the real reality.  Unless teachers and other willing staff are allowed to carry concealed handguns, those in charge are tacitly willing to accept some unknowable number of wounded and dead, because there isn’t going to be anyone present, when and where the attack begins, to stop the killer.

Where the lives of children and teachers are concerned there should be no such thing as “acceptable casualties.”  Sadly, in North Carolina and other states where such people “feel safe,” acceptable casualties is the status quo.

I wonder how parents feel about that concept?