Florida Charter School Arms Guardians with Semi-Automatic Rifles

Florida Charter School Arms Guardians with Semi-Automatic Rifles

"We aren’t trying to be big and bad. We just want to make sure if in the unlikely event, that something goes down, we have the right people with the right tools to get that job done,” Principal Dr. Bill Jones said.

The Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto, Fla., has equipped its school guardian officers with body armor and semi-automatic rifles, ABC Action News reports.

"We aren’t trying to be big and bad. We just want to make sure if in the unlikely event, that something goes down, we have the right people with the right tools to get that job done,” Principal Dr. Bill Jones said.

According to Jones, Manatee has a large campus, and a handgun wouldn’t be effective in the case of an active shooter.

"If you’ve got 150 feet, that’s not an effective distance for a handgun; it’s a simple distance for something like the rifle our guardian uses,” Jones said.

The Bradenton Herald reports that the charter school is hiring only military veterans who have combat experience. The guardians are armed with Glock handguns and Kel-Tec RDB 17-inch semi-automatic long-guns, and carry both with them at all times. The guardians also wear a level of body armor that’s comparable to the kind worn in combat.

“If you’re ever going to have an event on campus, I don’t want it to be the first time they’ve been shot at,” Jones told the Herald. “I don’t want them trying to figure who they are and how they are going to respond. That’s a life-changing experience and these folks, I don’t want this to be the first time they’ve asked themselves, ‘What am I going to do?’”

Some have criticized the charter school’s decision to have guardians use semi-automatic weapons.

Palmetto Police Chief Scott Tyler said he was skeptical when he first heard of the charter school’s decision but changed his mind when he realized how large the campus was and how much ground the guardians would have to cover.

“It’s not a bad approach, but there may be other schools where it’s not really a good approach,” Tyler said.

According to Jones, Manatee School for the Arts is the only school in the state to equip its guardians with rifles. Guardians in the Manatee County Public School District carry handguns.

About the Author

Jessica Davis is the Associate Content Editor for 1105 Media.

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