When a pair of combat veterans armed with semi-automatic rifles walked into a Florida school, they were greeted with mixed reactions. However, moments after their arrival, they made it clear they were “not looking for a fair fight.”
Many Americans are convinced that school shooting and mass shootings are on the rise. Although the opposite is true, parents have a legitimate fear of sending their children to public schools, which have been targeted by suicidal and mentally disturbed individuals.
Out of desperation, many schools have responded to recent shootings by implementing gun control policies, which further endanger students by announcing to potential gunmen that the properties will remain unprotected. On the other hand, certain facilities have taken a vastly different approach — one that has left the nation deeply divided.
After a recent Florida school shooting, surrounding campuses have been justifiably pressured to reform their security policies. However, one school’s unconventional decision has some parents praising their efforts while others are demanding the policy’s reversal.
When a pair of fully-armed combat veterans entered the Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto, they made it clear they’re “not looking for a fair fight.” Just moments later, students and parents were well aware of their intentions.
According to The Blaze, the school has decided to hire two combat veterans armed with semi-automatic rifles to patrol the campus in an effort to stop active school shooters. Students will now see the vets in body armor roaming the halls, each with a 9-mm Glock handgun at their side and a rifle in their hands.
Principal Bill Jones was straightforward in the school’s goal for the veteran guards. He explained that officials have every right to implement such a policy that could save dozens of lives.
“We’re not looking for a fair fight,” Jones said of potential active shooter situations. “We’re looking at an overwhelming advantage.”
Jones clarified that the veterans were chosen specifically because of their unique experience. He assured that they can be trusted to react quickly and effectively during a crisis, adding that their service has trained them to remain calm in such circumstances.
“I wouldn’t hire anybody who hadn’t been shot at and fired back,” Jones said. “I need someone who has been in that situation.”
One of the veterans chosen for the job is 38-year-old Harold Verdecia, who served as an infantryman in U.S. Army, completing tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to Herald-Tribune. Verdecia patrols the school’s halls visibly armed with a Kel-Tec “Bullpup” rifle and a Glock 19X on his hip.
Jones reiterated the need for guards like Verdecia, explaining that if a gunman were 100 feet away or farther, police would have trouble taking them down with a handgun. However, that’s the standard shot for a rifle like the one the school’s new guards will carry, The New York Times reports.
“It’s just a much more effective weapon than the handgun is,” Jones said.
Verdecia’s rifle is loaded with ammunition that will explode on impact instead of possibly going through the target and hitting someone else. While the rifle is loaded at all times, no round is chambered, ensuring that the gun will not fire without being cocked.
While most residents are supportive of the school’s new policy, some have voiced their concern for having armed guards around children.
“You don’t walk around with an assault rifle strapped to your chest in a school. That is not the normal policy of police agencies,” said Walt Zalisko, a retired police chief who now owns a Daytona Beach-based global investigative group and police management consulting business.
Zalisko claims that the guards should form “positive relationships” with the students rather than merely protecting them, and he insists that they can’t do that if they are armed with rifles.
“His job is to protect the kids, and he can do that with a handgun, but it is also to form positive relationships,” Zalisko said. “Develop information on who may have drugs or weapons. There is a lot involved.”
Principal Jones rejected this claim, maintaining that mere handguns aren’t as effective when it comes to taking out a shooter from a long distance. He pointed out that the good guys need to be just as heavily armed as the bad guys, asking, “Why would we not want the school guardian to have parity with that potential threat?”
For the most part, the response to the school’s new policy has been positive. However, there are some who fear that more guns equal a higher risk to the children. So, the question remains, would you send your child to a school that implements such a policy?