Oct. 2 (UPI) -- A firearms dealer this week donated nine AR-15 rifles to a North Dakota police department to protect public schools.
The weapons, donated to police in Bismarck by the Iowa-based company Brownells, will be kept in safes in area schools for school resource officers to access in the event of an active shooter.
"Brownells has long supported law enforcement agencies and military groups -- and related charities," Brownells spokesman Ryan Repp said in an email. "When we learned that the Bismarck Police Department wished to enhance their protection of their schools, we elected to assist."
The Bismarck Police Department and Bismarck Public Schools announced their plan to purchase the AR-15s, along with safes and bleeding control kits, this summer. They were waiting for the city to approve funding when Brownells offered to donate the weapons.
The donation came among multiple other offers of help.
"It's been a bit overwhelming, the support we received," Bismarck Police Chief Dave Draovitch said.
Bismarck decided to stock its schools with AR-15s so that resource officers on campus would have quick access to the weapons if there was a shooting.
The SROs, who are police officers, carry handguns. But handguns are less accurate and therefore less effective at stopping a shooter -- especially at greater distances, for instance in a long high school hallway, Draovitch said.
The resource officers have AR-15s in their police cars, he added. But in the time it would take them to retrieve the weapons from their cars in an active shooter situation, many lives could be lost, Draovitch said.
"Our intent is to have the SROs in the schools all day long," Draovitch said. "It makes sense for them to have the tools in there with them. If [a shooting] happens, the sooner we can have someone engaging that threat, the better off everyone will be."
Bismarck's plan comes as school districts across the nation are re-evaluating their safety measures to guard against mass shootings, such as the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in February. In that event -- the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history -- the shooter was armed with an AR-15.
Draovitch said school officials and police agencies are constantly learning new and better ways to handle active shooter events.
"It all goes back to Columbine," Draovitch said. "That's when the whole game changed."
Before the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School, police agencies assumed that a person with a gun on campus would take hostages and remain in one place. Officers would gather outside a building, wait for a hostage negotiator, and thoughtfully form a plan, Draovitch said.
That approach doesn't work if the shooter is moving about, killing people at random, he said.
After Columbine, police agencies changed their approach. They met at a single location outside a building, and moved in together to seek out the shooter.
But that approach, Draovitch said, also took too long.
"Now, we don't wait," he said. "We go in and find the threat and try and take them out as quickly as we can."
Having the weapons inside the school means a faster response time, he said.
The Bismarck Police Department has six school resource officers that patrol the community's public and private schools. There are five public high schools, three middle schools and 16 elementary schools.
The nine donated AR-15s are worth around $8,650, Repp said. Because of the donation, the department will be able to purchase more bleeding control kits than it originally planned, and higher quality safes, Draovitch said.
The district plans to have the safes installed and stocked by early next year.