Broward County training 'Guardians' to protect elementary schools

After the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida earlier this year, the state passed a law which required an armed guard to be on hand at every Florida school. Most Florida high schools and middle schools already had armed School Resource Officers assigned to them but Broward County didn’t have enough money to put deputies at every elementary school. So the county is hiring and training dozens of “guardians” as substitutes. From the Miami Herald:

At the shouted command, they drew their 9mm Glock pistols and shot from the hip at close range. First with their right hands, then their lefts. They shot at multiple targets, then retreated to the shade at Markham Park to guzzle Powerade…

Not much is publicly known about the guardians, a cheaper and more accessible option to fulfill a new statewide mandate that requires putting an armed guard at every school and was set forth by the Florida Legislature after a former student shot and killed 17 people and wounded 17 more at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland on Feb. 14.

Their only job at schools is to secure the perimeter, not deal with disciplinary matters. Their uniforms and weapons, which are the 9mm Glocks that they practiced with, will be supplied by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. Their salaries range from about $25,000 to $32,000 a year…

The guardians — who have gone through background checks, drug tests, and psychological evaluations — will wrap up their training next week. Their preparation includes 12 additionally mandated hours of diversity training.

Below is a local news report showing the guardians (they’re the ones in yellow) undergoing firearms training. What’s striking to me about this is that while several Parkland students have become media stars promoting gun control, what the state and Broward County are actually doing right now is gearing up to put armed guards on campuses. That’s basically what the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre recommended we do more than five years ago, after the Newtown school shooting.

At the time, this plan was greeted with outrage from many on the left. Here’s how the NY Times described it at the time:

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” Wayne LaPierre, the N.R.A. vice president, said at a media event that was interrupted by protesters. One held up a banner saying, “N.R.A. Killing Our Kids.”

The N.R.A.’s plan for countering school shootings, coming a week after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was met with widespread derision from school administrators, law enforcement officials and politicians, with some critics calling it “delusional” and “paranoid.” Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican, said arming schools would not make them safer.

Mr. LaPierre seemed to anticipate the negative reaction in an address that was often angry and combative.

“Now I can imagine the headlines — the shocking headlines you’ll print tomorrow,” he told more than 150 journalists at a downtown hotel several blocks from the White House.

“More guns, you’ll claim, are the N.R.A.’s answer to everything,” he said. “Your implication will be that guns are evil and have no place in society, much less in our schools. But since when did the gun automatically become a bad word?”

Five years later, armed guards at every public school isn’t a controversial or extreme idea in Florida. It’s policy now.

To be fair, this wasn’t a clean win for the NRA. The same law that provided new money for armed guards at schools also created a 3-day waiting period and raised the age to buy long guns to twenty-one. So it’s fair to say that both sides of the aisle got something they wanted here. Still, it’s striking that something that was at one point considered an outrageous deflection from the real issues is now seen as a pretty good idea even the Democrats running Broward County support.

Of course, it remains to be seen if this will work. There was an armed Deputy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas but as we all know, he stood around outside pointing his gun at a wall and warning other cops to stay away from the building where the shooting was taking place. Are any of these “guardians going to risk their lives for $30k a year? Are they even allowed to engage a shooter if one gets inside the school? I hope we never find out. But maybe just knowing they are nearby will help discourage an attack.