CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WTVO) — In the wake of the deadly Uvalde, Texas school shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead earlier this year, one North Carolina school district said that it has a plan to increase security.

The Madison County school system, in collaboration with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, has put an AR-15 rifle in emergency safes in all of its six schools, according to WTTG.

“We were able to put an AR-15 rifle and safe in all of our schools in the county,” said Sheriff Buddy Harwood to 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 rifles will allow police to quickly defend against a school shooting, according to Harwood. He criticized the time it took to respond to the Uvalde shooting and how it cost lives.

“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,” said Harwood. “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.”

Putting the rifles in schools was a necessary response to the current state of the country, according to Harwood.

“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,” he said. “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.” 

In addition to placing AR-15s in schools, other initiatives will take place to increase safety. Each school will have a safety resource officer as well as a school safety liaison. A panic button system that reports to the sheriff’s office will also be installed.

“Our partnership with law enforcement is a critical part of our daily preparations,” Madison County Schools Superintendent Will Hoffman said. “We have to be vigilant and prepared for any possibility at any time. Our students have to feel safe in order to be safe.

The school district and sheriff’s office will soon conduct a live scenario to replicate an emergency response.