Daugh­ter fa­vored shoot­ing AR-15

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Scott Travis Staff writer

Alaina Petty loved to go to the shoot­ing range with her dad and fire off her fa­vorite gun — the AR-15.

It was the same weapon that was used to kill the 14-year-old fresh­man at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High.

The hor­rific way she died has left Ryan Petty strug­gling with how to re­mem­ber and cel­e­brate his daugh­ter and the fun they had at the gun range, he told the South Florida Sun Sen­tinel on Fri­day. He said she loved the AR-15 be­cause it was a mil­i­tary-style weapon and she had dreams of join­ing the mil­i­tary.

That in­spired her to be­come a JROTC cadet at Stone­man Dou­glas, Petty said.

“My daugh­ter un­der­stood and re­spected firearms. They're locked up,” he said. “They’re only ac­ces­si­ble if I al­low them and we go to­gether. She learned about firearm safety.”

Petty owns a col­lec­tion of guns, in­clud­ing AR-15s. But he said he also rec­og­nizes how di­vi­sive the is­sue of guns is, in­clud­ing among the 17 fam­i­lies who lost loved ones at Stone­man Dou­glas.

Fred Gut­ten­berg, who lost his daugh­ter Jaime, has been a vo­cal ad­vo­cate for stricter gun laws, while Andrew Pol­lack, who lost his daugh­ter Meadow, is a strong sup­porter of the Sec­ond Amend­ment.

“One of [Alaina’s] fa­vorite things to do was go to the gun range,” Petty said. “It’s been per­son­ally painful that I haven’t been able to talk about the one thing my daugh­ter and I loved to do the most.”

He de­cided to in­stead look for com­mon ground. He suc­cess­fully lob­bied Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can law­mak­ers on the state and fed­eral level to get laws passed im­prov­ing the fed­eral back­ground sys­tem for gun pur­chases and rais­ing the age to buy a ri­fle from 18 to 21.

“I’ve done more to bring sen­si­ble firearms con­trol to the state of Florida than any­one,” he said.

Now he is in a high­pro­file run for the Broward County School Board, where he has taken mod­er­ate stands on gun is­sues. He op­posed a state pro­posal to arm teach­ers but sup­ports the state’s guardian pro­gram, which al­lows cer­tain other em­ploy­ees to carry guns on cam­pus.

But his op­po­nent, Donna Korn, has raised his sup­port for guns as a cam­paign is­sue. Robert Kuypers, a close friend and cam­paign as­so­ci­ate of Korn, emailed the South Florida Sun Sen­tinel on Thurs­day with photos of tweets where

Petty posted photos in sup­port of the AR-15 and other guns.

One meme was a take­off on Ap­ple prod­ucts such as the iPhone and iPod. “iGun. Ten rounds never seemed so light,” a tweet from 2008 says. A tweet from the same year says, “Ryan Petty be­lieves guns can bring peo­ple to­gether.” In 2013, he shared a news story called “The AR-15. It’s more than a gun. It’s a gad­get,” adding his own com­ment, “For my tech friends.”

Kuypers ar­gued that if elected Petty would be “cham­pi­oning turn­ing schools into war zones with ev­ery teacher armed to the teeth.”

Petty, who is run­ning for of­fice for the first time, said he found the po­lit­i­cal at­tacks hurt­ful and a mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of his pub­lic work re­lated to gun safety.

“It’s frus­trat­ing to me, and I don't think it’s a fair char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of my views or my record on the Sec­ond Amend­ment,” he said.

While his pub­lic work has fo­cused on find­ing ar­eas of agree­ment re­lated to guns and school safety, he still re­mains a strong sup­porter of the Sec­ond Amend­ment.

“I’ve had to do a lot of soul search­ing on that,” he said. “No one has thought more about what I be­lieved and whether I still be­lieve it. My view is if Cruz hadn't used that weapon, he would have cho­sen some­thing else.”

He said if the fo­cus is on ban­ning guns, “we’re miss­ing the op­por­tu­nity to re­ally keep our stu­dents and teach­ers safe. The tac­tics will change. The threat will change, and it’s im­me­di­ately po­lar­iz­ing. Our abil­ity to make progress is when we come to­gether.”

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