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Opinion: Madison County’s new AR-15 initiative is about gun rights, not student safety

Asheville Citizen Times 8/14/2022 Pat Brothwell
Pat Brothwell, a former teacher, says Madison County’s new AR-15 initiative is about gun rights, not student safety. © Submitted Pat Brothwell, a former teacher, says Madison County’s new AR-15 initiative is about gun rights, not student safety.

After the Uvalde school massacre, Ted Cruz suggested that the solution to preventing future violence was to have only one heavily guarded door in and out of schools. Other Republicans echoed this solution, including former President Trump, which doesn’t hold up to the lightest of scrutinies — it gives students and teachers nowhere to go if that door gets breached, not to mention being a blatant fire-code violation. It’s useless because these men aren’t interested in protecting students, instead showing brainwashed voters that they will never utter the words “gun control.” 

Madison County’s new initiative to have AR-15s in every school has the same flavor, the ultimate embodiment of “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” that Second Amendment diehards have been groomed by years of NRA propaganda to think they must believe. It’s political maneuvering at its most insidious since the NRA doesn’t care if people die, only about reviving their dying revenue (NRA revenue declined 23% from roughly $367 million in 2016 to $282 million in 2020).

Installing AR-15s in every school isn’t about public safety but surreptitiously pushing a pro-gun narrative. What other purpose is there, since even a civilian like me can see that at a closer glance, there are a lot of holes in this initiative. 

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In their big press push, Madison County says they don’t want their schools falling victim to the slow response time that decimated Uvalde. "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," Madison County Sheriff Buddy Harwood told the Madison County News-Record & Sentinel.

This rationale is half-baked at best and doesn’t make Madison County law enforcement seem prepared — why, in this hypothetical scenario, are you leaving your gun in a car when responding to an active school shooter? 

According to Harwood, the guns will be stored in safes in undisclosed locations in the schools. How are officers planning on retrieving them if the school is already under attack? Who’ll have the combinations for the safe, and what if those individuals aren’t able to get to these undisclosed locales? This just seems like AR-15s for the sake of AR-15s, not for anything logistically sound.

On Facebook, Harwood vowed, “to exhaust every resource we’ve got to ensure that our kids are safe, that when they go to school, they can learn ... and they can go the playground and play, and not worry about some thug who’s going to come out onto the playground and open up on them with some type of AR-15, shotgun, pistol, whatever.”

So, you’re saying that if kids are on a playground and a shooter approaches and starts firing, they’ll all miraculously survive because of guns locked in an undisclosed safe? Harwood’s conveniently overlooking a key element to ensuring kids can go to the playground without worrying about an errant AR-15 attack: fewer AR-15s.

Bill Clinton signed an assault-weapons ban in 1994, outlawing AR-15s and other semiautomatic rifles. As reported by NPR, mass shootings were down in the decade that followed, compared to the decade before (1984-1994) and the one after (2004-2014). Assault weapon bans work. 

Now, say there is a school shooter in Madison County, and whoever is in charge of getting and protecting students with an AR-15 retrieves the weapons and returns fire. A “good guy” with a gun might still kill kids. Per a CNN op-ed by retired police officer (and AR-15 owner) Michael Fanone: “The bullet that comes out of the barrel of an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle can easily penetrate the target — the intruder or whatever person you are using deadly force to defend yourself or others from. But it also will go through the wall behind that person, and potentially through that room and into the next wall.”

Over the past decade, gun makers have made more than $1 billion from selling AR-15-style guns. Gun sales and stocks go up every time there’s a mass shooting, and when the public discourse turns to gun bans,  a discourse this Madison County initiative will undoubtedly inspire as it’s making national headlines. AR-15s in schools won’t keep Madison County students any safer, but the NRA and gun manufacturers will undoubtedly benefit from the free marketing campaign Madison County just delivered. 

Pat Brothwell is a former high school teacher, but current writer and marketing professional living and working in Asheville. 

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Opinion: Madison County’s new AR-15 initiative is about gun rights, not student safety

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