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Parkland parent slams Gualtieri for using NRA TV to push arming of teachers

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, both members of a state school safety commission, appeared on separate segments to discuss the panel's findings.

The father of a slain Parkland student criticized Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri for appearing on the broadcast arm of the NRA to discuss the findings of a state commission tasked with investigating last year's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Among the recommendations the commission said would make schools safer was a controversial proposal to arm trained and willing teachers to be a last line of defense.

Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was killed in the shooting, took to Twitter over the weekend to say he was disappointed to see Gualtieri, the commission chairman, and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, a commission member, "all over NRATV trying to sell the idea of arming teachers."

In an interview Monday, Guttenberg — a vocal critic of the proposal — said he wished the sheriffs had used better judgment in choosing how to spread the word about the "good investigatory work" conducted by the commission.

"The NRA's sole purpose is to help sell more guns," Guttenberg said in an interview Monday. "To go on NRATV … to push the idea of expanding the number of guns that will now be sold and supplied for teachers, I have a problem with."

The proposal to arm teachers also is opposed by the state teachers' union and PTA.

Gualtieri appeared on two segments hosted by NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, most recently on Friday. He said in an interview Monday that he accepted interview requests from the network to spread information about the commission's findings.

"I'd go on NRA TV again. I'd go on anti-NRATV if it existed," he said. "I don't care. I'll talk about it with anybody."

The sheriff pointed out that he spoke to several news organizations throughout the process and held a live-streamed news conference Wednesday after the commission unanimously approved the recommendations to handle what he said was an inundation of media requests.

He also noted that the father of another slain Parkland student, fellow Parkland commission member Ryan Petty, took to Twitter to thank him for his appearance on the program.

"I'm not promoting anybody's agenda other than, I guess, what is my agenda and the commission's agenda," Gualtieri said, "and that is to do a better job of ensuring safety in schools."

While his interview with Loesch stayed within the bounds of the commission's findings, NRATV's programming meanders beyond the traditional question-and-answer session. The network, available for streaming through services including Amazon and Apple TV, features programming supported by gun companies (one example: "Love at First Shot" sponsored by Smith & Wesson) and commentary on politics, the media and current events.

In a November segment where Polk sheriff Judd appeared, host Grant Stinchfield opened with the observation that Democrats taking the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives "was a blow to freedom-loving Americans" before calling on NRA members to gear up for the 2020 election.

Stinchfield went on to discuss the commission's findings with Judd, peppering the conversation with digs at teachers' unions, the mainstream media and a society that "is not being honest with itself."

Judd declined an interview request for this article. A spokesperson said the sheriff "supports the findings of the commission and he advocates for things that will keep children safe and does not get distracted with arguments involving emotion or politics."

Judd finished off his NRATV segment telling Stinchfield about the instructions he gives to teachers in his county's Sentinel program, which arms certain teachers who go through background checks and hundreds of hours of training.

"How we instruct those folks is if that person is coming to slaughter these children and these teachers, shoot them," Judd said. "Shoot them a lot. Shoot them so much that you can read a newspaper through them. We want them graveyard dead before they can hurt our children."