Broward County

Parkland parent fumes over sheriffs’ appearances on NRA TV to promote arming teachers

Fred Guttenberg, the father of Jaime Guttenberg who was killed during the Parkland shooting last February, wipes a tear during his discussion on gun safety at the Coral Springs Museum of Art on October 5, 2018.
Fred Guttenberg, the father of Jaime Guttenberg who was killed during the Parkland shooting last February, wipes a tear during his discussion on gun safety at the Coral Springs Museum of Art on October 5, 2018.

More fallout from the release of a scathing 458-page report by a state panel that investigated how a former student was able to systematically shoot and kill 14 students, two teachers, a staff member and wound 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland last Valentine’s Day.

Parkland parent-turned-activist Fred Guttenberg blasted Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri for appearing on separate talk show programs on NRA TV. Judd and Gualtieri are members of the commission that put together the report, now on its way to incoming Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Gualtieri is the commission chair.

Guttenberg’s 14-year-old daughter Jaime was one of the Parkland students who was killed.

At issue: the appearance of commission member sheriffs, going on NRA TV to further their views on an unpopular recommendation in the report — the arming of teachers, a stance opposed by many of the Parkland parents and educators nationwide.

“Really disappointed to see MSD Commissioners Sheriff Gualtieri and Sheriff Grady Judd all over NRA TV trying to sell the idea of arming teachers. Turns out they have been on NRA TV multiple times during the commission hearings. They know the audience they are speaking to,” Fred Guttenberg said on Twitter Friday.

On Saturday, Guttenberg told the Miami Herald that the sheriffs’ appearances on the programs were inappropriate for reasons he says are twofold:

“Number one is: NRA TV is the online propaganda arm of a gun lobby group whose goal is to support gun manufacturers and sell more guns,” Guttenberg said. “And so they didn’t just go on NRA TV to try and sell this conclusion that they came to after hearing all this testimony. They’ve been going on NRA TV all the way through the process of the commission hearings, going back months, specifically Grady Judd. He is clear he came into this commission process with this as his mindset. And, if you look at the video, he brags about changing Gualtieri’s mind about this.”

On Grant Stinchfield’s NRA TV program, in which the host lobbied his audience to support Republicans in the 2020 elections to preserve the Second Amendment, Judd said he helped change Gualtieri’s position on arming teachers.

“Gualtieri is a dear friend and chairs the commission I’m on,” Judd said on NRA TV. “While I established this position early on, Bob originally really was not comfortable with that. But as I worked with him — and he and I are dear friends and on several committees together — and the research we developed through this shooting, it was abundantly evident that teachers, not all teachers, those that wanted to and were capable of and who had completed thorough training, could have and would have saved lives that day.”

Guttenberg disagrees and says that the commission, which held public hearings throughout the state after the shooting, did not hear testimony on how guns in schools could have, or would not have, saved lives.

“For me, to go on this gun lobby propaganda network to sell an agenda that they came into this commission hearing with is a slap in the face and discredits in so many ways the great work they did as an investigatory body who dug into what happened and who failed and who needs to be held accountable,” Guttenberg said. “They did their job but they did not look at the role of guns. To come out with a recommendation on guns they did not take testimony on, whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea, it is very concerning to me.”

The commission report did recommend one remedy, among many, that state law should change to allow certain trained teachers to carry firearms. This measure is opposed by the Florida Education Association, which represents teachers, and the Florida PTA, which believes more guns on campus will make schools less safe. Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho also has strenuously argued against arming teachers.

Max Schachter, who lost his 14-year-old son Alex, voted against the commission’s recommendation to arm teachers. He was one of two Parkland parents on the statewide commission.

In an interview on CBC Radio’s “As It Happens” on Thursday, Schachter said, “I’m in favor of arming principals, assistant principals, school monitors. I’m not in favor of arming classroom teachers.” He has maintained since the February shootings that teachers ought to teach.

“[W]hen you go to the airport, are there armed guards there? Yeah, there are. When you go to the courthouse, are there armed guards? Yeah, there are. There should be armed guards at your school too,” Schachter said.

Parent Ryan Petty, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Broward School Board in August (incumbent Donna Korn held on to her seat), initially opposed arming teachers as a commission member. But he changed his mind and supported the commission’s recommendation. His 14-year-old daughter, Alaina, died in the shooting.

“One of the more compelling things to me is that those teachers were defenseless sitting in those classrooms, along with those students, at the wrong end of a semiautomatic rifle,” Petty told WLRN in December. “And to not give them the opportunity to protect themselves, I think, is a disservice to the teachers.”

While the two Florida sheriffs used NRA’s online audience — more than 323,600 Twitter followers — to give their opinions, Guttenberg used his Twitter platform to tell his 146,100 followers how he felt.

“Ok, this makes me uncomfortable. The chairman of the MSD Commission went on NRA TV to push this plan, including arming teachers. The optics of this are bad and the idea that he pushed for this, without any testimony on this or anything to do with guns is very concerning,” Guttenberg said on Twitter with a link to Judd’s appearance on the Stinchfield program.

In this file photo, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd talks about the events leading up to the arrest over the weekend of two juvenile girls in a Florida bullying case at a press conference in Winter Haven, Florida on Oct. 15, 2013. Calvin Knight AP

On the show, Judd, who could not be reached Saturday, gave an example of a teacher who had been shot, who then crawled into a classroom’s doorway to protect his students. That teacher was shot and killed by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, the former MSD student who confessed to the shooting.

Judd felt that before the teacher was fatally wounded this teacher “would have shot the active shooter had he a firearm” and “would have saved his students.”

He didn’t name the teacher but the scenario seems to fit how Parkland teacher Scott Beigel died. The geography teacher and the school’s cross country coach was shot outside the classroom door he’d held open for fleeing students when he went to lock it. He died after ushering everyone inside. He was praised as a hero afterward.

The school’s athletic director Chris Hixon and the school’s assistant football coach Aaron Feis were also slain and hailed as heroes for shielding students from the shooter.

Last year, soon after the shooting, some of the Parkland parents — and Beigel’s mother Linda Beigel Schulman — said they feared the tragedy had become a tool for gun rights advocates to introduce guns into the classroom.

“We’re being used,” Schulman said in Tallahassee before a group of House and Senate leaders.

The Twitter flap follows Thursday’s action by the Broward Sheriff’s Office to discipline Deputy Joshua Stambaugh for his failure to confront the gunman. Stambaugh was placed on restricted duty. Stambaugh, a 20-year veteran, was at a nearby private school working off-duty when the call went out about the shooting. The report said his body camera footage “captured the sounds of [Nikolas] Cruz’s last gunshots,” but that he didn’t advance toward the school, according to the report.

Gaultier, on host Dana Loesch’s program on NRA TV, referenced this deputy. Loesch is the spokeswoman for the NRA.

“When kids go to school they, and their parents, have a right to believe those kids will come home alive,” he said. “We have an obligation to make sure that happens. ... The first supervisor heard gunshots and went to his car and hid behind the engine block and sat there and was there for 10 minutes.”

Judd concluded his latest NRA TV appearance to say that if an armed assailant manages to get through all the layers of security inside a school, it’s up to a well-trained armed official inside the school to take them out.

“Shoot them so much you can read a newspaper through them,” he said. “We want them graveyard dead before they can shoot our children.”

Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
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