Money donated to Polk County schools by the NRA garnering mixed reactions

LAKELAND, Fla. - The Nation Rifle Association has granted schools across the country more than $7 million in the recent years.

That money has also trickled into Florida schools, supporting programs like JROTC in high school.

Broward County has announced it will no longer accept contributions after the Parkland Shooting, but some Tampa Bay Area schools say they will continue to welcome the NRA’s support.

In most recent years, Polk County JROTC programs have accepted about $33,000 in NRA money.

And at this point, the school does not have any future plans to deny future grant money.

“It just makes me nervous for all of the other kids in school right now,” mother Dorothy Creasmen said. 

There’s no question parents are alarmed about the trends of shootings in classrooms across the county, but it does demand answers as to who is responsible. 

“I don’t blame guns” mother April Dempsey said. She believes mental illness and medical help is the biggest culprit. Dempsey also claims you cannot curb evil.

Parkland’s gunman was a known member of his school’s rifle team, that received the same funding the NRA has been handing out across the country. 

The NRA grants are generally applied for and given to high school JROTC programs to buy air rifles, targets and support shooting sports.

Many parents ABC Action News spoke to said they don’t have a problem with NRA money coming into their children’s schools.

“I think it’s probably good, I mean if they are supporting schools and giving money to the schools I don’t see anything wrong with that, Dempsey said.

An outspoken Polk County school board member, Billy Townsend, admits he believes guns should be regulated but says any money coming into the school from the NRA is welcomed.

“In this narrow sense, where they are just providing the ability for my kids to learn how to shoot and be engaged in the same way kids getting engaged for art or sports or agriculture are, I have no problem with it,” Townsend said.

But not every parent is on the same page, especially with Polk’s stance on continuing the grants from the NRA.

“Whatever keeps the students safe is the best option. That can be different things in different communities, it’s really up to the local authorities to decide the best way to keep the school safe,” Ed Diaz said.

“Anything involving a gun is dangerous so I guess it wouldn’t be how I would choose to use that money in the school. I think there would be a lot of issues where schools could use money for other things,”  said parent Andrew Parks.

But others say blaming the NRA is just an easy way out.

“I think people are looking for someone to place blame on and they are looking for reasons why these bad things are happening, and so of course the NRA is an easy target,” Dempsey said.

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