Despite state ban, Polk Sheriff finds legal way to arm staff and faculty at Lakeland university

LAKELAND, Fla. - A private Lakeland university announced a surprising new program that would allow its staff and faculty to legally carry guns on campus.

Southeastern University teamed up with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office to roll out what it is calling the Sheriff’s Sentinel Program.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” Sheriff Grady Judd said Friday in the auditorium of SEU.

The program will allow “comprehensively trained” staff and faculty to carry a concealed weapon on campus as long as they meet specific requirements.

Those who pass the training will be called “special deputies” for the sole purpose of engaging an active shooter.

“They will be sworn in as ‘Special Deputies’ so you don’t have a civilian on campus, you have a Special Deputy Sheriff on campus,” Judd said.

Judd added that the special deputies would receive even more training on the shooting range than a police officer.

Carrying a gun on any school campus in Florida is against state law, but it is technically legal in this case because they would be “deputized” under the sheriff’s authorization.

Judd denied that it’s his attempt to skirt the law.

“It took me aback a little bit,” said Jeremiah Gallego, a student at SEU.

Gallegos is struggling to get past that image of a professor standing at the chalk board with a handgun on his hip.

Judd would not say whether special deputies would actually carry the gun out in the open.

“That may be a possible drawback and I think that’s where I feel you might lose that relationship and trust with some people who may not be comfortable,” Gallego said.

But other students are all for it, feeling it would do exactly what is intended by taking out an active shooter.

“For a cop to get here it would take a long time. If we have people here with guns it would be easy for them to be taken out,” said student Aaron Hart.

Judd and SEU President Dr. Ken Ingle signed the deal Friday afternoon making it official.

Staff members who volunteer will start carrying guns as soon as they finish the training program.

Don’t like seeing your teacher with a gun? Sheriff Judd did not mince words.

“For all the naysayers, get over it!” He said.

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