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Will Phobias About AR-15s Keep Schools From Adopting This Innovative Product?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Time is of the essence in mass public shootings. Civilians and police stop a lot of mass murders by carrying handguns, but sometimes you need a larger round than is available in a traditional handgun. It often simply isn’t practical to carry around a rifle. And school staff might not have time to run to a locker to retrieve the needed gun.


Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter, Meadow, died in the 2018 Parkland school mass murder that left 17 people dead, is fighting to give school districts the tools they need. Byrna, a company that makes innovative self-defense tools, has donated eight backpacks containing collapsible AR-15s to Pollack’s “Meadows Movement” nonprofit. These guns fire .223 caliber rifle rounds and are more powerful than traditional handguns.

On January 4th, Pollack will give the backpacks to the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office for use by school resource officers (SROs) and Will Hartley, superintendent of Bradford County Schools.

“The folding rifle is easy to carry throughout the day for a school resource officer inside the bulletproof backpack,” Pollack said. “The seconds to get minutes lost retrieving a rifle from a locker vs. pulling the bulletproof backpack into a vest and having the rifle on hand equates to the number of lives that could have been saved.”

The school superintendent echoes his comments. “I wish more people could have it,” Hartley notes. “Because if someone comes on your campus and they have a long gun, we need to be able to meet their force with the same kind of force.” 

Bradford County Schools is smart enough to have multiple layers of protection. Even when school resource officers are in the right place at the right time, they have a tough job. Uniformed guards may as well be holding neon signs saying, “Shoot me first.” Attackers know that once they kill the sheriff’s deputy, they have free rein to go after everybody else.


To prevent that, the Bradford County schools are part of Florida’s Guardian Program. As in nineteen other states, teachers and staff are trained to use guns to protect people. But their guns are concealed. Permit holders make guards’ very difficult job easier. If an attacker tries to kill a school resource officer, he reveals his position and makes himself a target to someone with a concealed handgun. As with concealed handgun permit holders generally, the whole point is that the attacker doesn’t know who else he needs to worry about. 

Instead of a sign in front of these schools saying “Gun Free School Zone,” they are replaced with signs warning: “Please be aware that certain staff members at Bradford County Schools can be legally armed and may use whatever force is necessary to protect our students.”

But, unfortunately, there are plenty of schools around the country that haven’t learned the lessons that Bradford County has. And these backpacks, with their built-in bullet-resistant vests and ARs will help protect school resource officers from surprise attacks from behind them and will give them more potent firepower if they get into a firefight with attackers. In literally just a couple of seconds, the bullet-resistant vest can also be put on their front side.


Technically these guns are called AR-pistols rather than AR-15s, but the difference in terms is entirely arbitrary and results from nonsensical government regulations on how to define a rifle. Instead of a stock, an AR-15 pistol usually has a tube, but the two guns are functionally identical.

Pollack so believes in Byrna’s products that he is now their chief public safety officer.

It will be a shame if school districts’ phobias about AR-15s prevent them from taking advantage of this innovative product.


Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author most recently of “Gun Control Myths

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