Daughter favored shooting AR-15
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.”