The digital version of this first edition is available now! Buy it today and you’ll get it delivered to your email box with a bonus chapter that will not be printed. The hard copy and audio books will be available after October 1st, 2018.
Below, Find a few samples from the 80,000 word narrative:
“You have a perspective I hope to never have!
You are an amazing father and man.
Thank you for everything you do!”
-Aaron Jannetti, Subject Matter Expert and Author of
How to Survive an Active Killer:
An Honest Look at Your Role in the Age of Mass Violence
PART I : Introduction
It’s a message no parent should ever have to see. The thought that your child is facing sheer terror and horror changes your reality in an instant – It went from a nightmare I’ve seen and read about many times to something that I had to face head-on at home.…with my two daughters and a niece barricading their classrooms…..
To envision what is going at the school in real time as you receive that message is terrifying to say the least. My kids were facing a mad man who had decided that he was going to murder people on their high school campus. The only real protection they had at that point was their instincts and some of the training we had instilled in them over the years. Thankfully, like many, the day ended for my wife Katie and me with our kids coming home, still alive. Still there for a hug. But with no idea what the following days, weeks, months and years would be like after living through this nightmare.
The events of February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida have changed my life, my family’s lives and the communities of Coal Springs and Parkland forever. My perspective on what led up to the shooting, what happened that day and how the events since have unfolded is a bit different, you can say for sure.
This is my story, one that is unique, I am told. It is just one perspective from a parent of two girls that I love dearly, and who has trained feverishly to have the skill set to protect them as their father. I hope that it can help other parents around the country to realize that no one is immune from a random act of violence. No one.
17 souls that did not go home that day. This book is dedicated to each of them and their families, and to the students who will forever be a family, and will forever be #MSDSTRONG.
TIME TO SHUT UP
It’ almost as if I had to unplug a hard drive. I have been programmed to respond to anything “anti – gun” with reason, facts, and an attempt to debate towards an understanding that while you may not like them, I have every right to have them. I know the stats that take the 2nd amendment into the argument in a way that is unquestionable, going back to when our forefathers separated form the king of England to from the USA. I have the statistics from around the globe historically, as to what happens when a dictator disarms the public. From Mao to Stalin, Hitler and beyond, once the free man cannot defend himself against the state, he loses. These are not little numbers, we are talking about genocide, the losses of human life is in the millions, I’ll touch on this a bit in Part 3 of this book.
I’ve watched many of the more well known mass shootings that have occurred in the past 10 years and have come to the conclusion that I’m personally never going to be the willing victim in the face of evil, so I carry a gun everywhere and am prepared when I leave my home . I’m constantly getting the trainingI need. I’ve also become firm in my conviction that it is up to us as individuals to protect ourselves and our families. And I’ve noticed that almost all of these events have several common elements that were starting to show themselves in Florida.
Inside my head, I wanted to stand on the corner and make sure everyone that did not know the real information had it! The talk around town was going towards the anti-gun narrative QUICKLY and HARD here. But it was not the time, and def not the place. I had to shut up. I had to wait and figure out what my role would be in all of this. But I knew that my rules for putting up Youtube videos applied here as well – NOTHING to embarrass the girls. That meant that for now, and maybe forever, my role as the TacDaddy – the 2A advocate and mouthpiece was over. It had to be. This does not mean that I have changed in what I believe. It means that how I present it to the world has to change. I had to respect the people and the emotions of where I live.
Here is a perfect example to help better illustrate what I’m saying here. I go to Starbucks and grab coffee daily, and one for Katie on her days off and weekends (say what you will but that is good coffee dammit).
Now I need to explain to you what the west side Parkland Starbucks scene is like. I’m sure you can picture the spot where the rich folks meet up for a variety of clubs – Saturdays and Sundays are notorious for packed parking lots and either runners, bikers, (the Lance Armstrong wanna-be kind, not the Hell’s Angels), or the Broward County Corvette club.
They take over. The inside, outside, it can be literally 50-100 people sweating after a run enjoying a latte or iced caramel machiatto. Then imagine the TacDaddy proudly walking in to grab his to go order (how people don’t use that app is beyond me), with one of a hundred t shirts that advertise Lanxang Tactical, Tactical life, or with a Grunt Style shirt that has an AK-47 and says DEFEND FREEDOM on it. Or any other obviously Pro gun gear. Up until February 14th, this was my MO. A proud patriot expression this right to express myself and support the 2a while carryinga gun to protect myself and anyone else that I may find in danger. I got an occasional comment from another patron who noticed a logo that they support, and even had a few people have stopped me and mention “Hey I know you, I watch your videos bro”! It’s true, internet youtube guys can actually get noticed in public. It’s rare, but it has indeed happened more that once over the years. Regardless, this town didn’t need to hear about the rights I have to own guns right now. It was collectively reeling in pain and needed to heal. While I don’t usually give a rip about what I’m wearing or who sees it or cares, wearing a “Gun t-shirt” with the silhouette of an AR-15 in Parkland did not seem right to me after the shooting. Not because I don’t have the RIGHT to, but that it is not the RIGHT thing to do….RIGHT NOW.
I imagined an average student from MSD that was a month removed from seeing a classmate get shot or otherwise having to deal with the new reality in Parkland, out and about trying to get some sort of normalcy back in to their lives. They happen to be having a “good” day for once, not dwelling on a detail that they cannot get out of their head, finally a day of respite from the agony of the past month. And some asshole is “proudly showing his 2A support” at the Starbucks with his “From my cold dead hands” – I just will not be that guy.
MY FAVORITE RANGE BUDDY
I first took the girls to the range when they were 8 and 10 years old. I found them a single shot, bolt action .22 Rifle with a beautiful pink stock that we had fun making “less girlie”. After some woodwork and black stain that kept the beauty of the natural wood grain with black highlights, the pink remained the dominate color, they were set.
We would go to a range, having a full instructional meeting the night before, going over the rules of shooting, examining the firearms, and using dummy rounds called ‘snap caps’ to simulate loading and unloading the weapon. The car ride over was all about the safety rules and procedures again. They each have their own ear and eye protection, and always had fun printing out targets that would challenge our marksmanship. I’d take a first shot and 2 more to make sure the rifle’s scope still geld the zero, and range day ended up with us learning something new about ourselves. The concentration, the focus needed, the rule following, all of these are things that I’d watch come to life at the range with the girls. I’d challenge the girls to make smiley faces, and we had fun getting more proficient each trip to the range.
As Molly grew up and of it, Ally seemed to really enjoy it. I had no problem with Molly deciding that while she was pretty good at it, it just
was not her thing. Ally, on the other hand, was all about it. It was right up her alley in that she loves progression and new challenges. The great thing about shooting in terms of learning and getting better is that the proof is right there on the target. You can watch your groups get “tighter” as you get more proficient.
The challenge of getting better, the time in the car together, it really became our “thing”, with any long period of inactivity met with “Hey Dad….the range?” It got to the point for me that a new firearms or accessory showing up for a review video or otherwise was always seen with a “Ally is going to have fun with this one”.
She is a great marksman. I’ve watched her skill set grow, and after the 6 years she has had access to quite a bit of target shooting with my personal instruction, I’d put her up against most anyone at this point to win any kind of competition, regardless of what is being shot or how far. Over time, she has shot almost anything you’ll see at the gun shop, from 9mm and .45ACP handguns to AK-47s to AR-15’s , .308 Long Range Rifles and more, she has more trigger time behind a wider variety of weapon systems than most grown men. One experience we will both never forget is back in March a few years ago. I was at the Big 3 Training Center in Daytona Beach Florida for another media event. On the final day, the girls and Katie were coming up to spend the weekend at the beach, after
finally seeing where day was during all of these 4 day trips to Daytona. They can to the training center and actually saw me win an award for media production that day, presented by (RANK HERE) Dillard “CJ” Johnson and Ancel Robinson, now the Director of Media at Big 3. I was surprised by that, but it was cool to think that they got to see dad getting respect by such a great group of men and women, many who they have heard so many stories about when I came home after those trips.
As surprised as I was , I had something in store for Ally. Katie and Molly headed to the beach after lunch, and Ally knew that she was finally going to shot at Big 3! She had no idea what I had in store for her.
Lanxang Tactical had their long trance precision rifles on the tower on the long range. We went over and she got to meet Travis “Tango Lima” as we call him, and Ryan, a marine scout sniper. Keep in mind that Travis trained US ARMY Rangers as well as served as one, and Ryan is a Marine Scout Sniper. They were going to teach Ally how to shoot their rifles and ring steel long range, something she had only thought about before. The weather was perfect, the guys were great, and she had so much fun. Before long she was hitting targets at distances she had never even attempted before! I videotaped it all of course, and editing it was one of my favorite projects of the year. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated both of them for taking that time and doing it with patience and care. It’s always going to be a highlight of her experiences learning how to shoot. She met many of my friends that day and had a great time. We both did.
After the shooting here, I started to think about how things would change. I waited and let her take the lead, not pressuring her to talk about guns or what happened. But I was thinking about it. She is very sharp and I know how her mind works, and the conflict of her knowledge base and experiences were clashing with the fact that one of these firearms we respect and follow rules with was used to kill her classmates and their friends, along with the 3 coaches. The part that had to be especially hard for her and other students who are familiar with responsible gun ownership and use, there were many signs around the campus demonizing the gun, the March for our lives centered around “gun violence” and making sure that it would never happen again. I waited patiently and let her know I was ready when she was.
One day I was working in my home office on the computer, and she tapped on the open door. “Dad”?
“Hey Al, what’s up” She walked closer.
“Can I see one of the AR Rifles”
“Sure, hang on a second”. I went and got a rifle from the safe and dropped the magazine, and charged the charging handle a few times, ejecting the chambered round two more times as per habit. I walked over to her, always following the safety rules, and showed her the clear
chamber, placed my finger in it to check again, and verbally announced, “this gun is clear, this gun is clear”, and then showed it to her. She put her finger in the chamber, looked again, and repeated the same. We have always incorporated two things that the “4 rules” don’t cover – we double and triple check, with verbalizations of what is happening and verbal confirmations. I held out the rifle and she slowly took it from me, one hand on the pistol grip with a trigger finger no where near the trigger, and her left hand supporting the handguard. She was comfortable with the weight and size of this rifle by now, but she just kind of held it waist high and looked at it. after a few moments, she raised it to her cheek, pointing it at a neutral wall in a safe direction, and focused on the reticle inside the 1×6 magnified optic affixed to the top of the gun. She looked, and then took a break, raised it back up to a standing shooting position, looked again, then put it back to her waist. She returned to me and said “Yeah, no, that’s not something I think I’m ready for quite yet”
“Not a problem at all” I responded, and she thanked me and left. I put the gun away, safely locked up in it’s safe. I could tell that she needed some time, but that she was indeed thinking about it.
The other change she made was not something I expected but totally understand. She has accumulated a patch collection that would make many jealous, a few hundred pvc and embroidered cloth velcro patches with a few hard to find limited editions, etc. and a few that she “earned”
along the journey we shared together, learning how to shoot. Most trips to the range ended with checking out and getting a new “morale patch” for her to choose and take home, adding it to the huge wall hanging behind her bedroom door. It was a thing. One day, she showed up at the office door again, asking for some time…. “Of course, what’s up”? She handed me a bag that contained her patches. She had taken them down form the wall she passed by daily, bundled them by size, type, and kind, and was returning them to me. I was confused for a split second, then understood exactly what was going on. She lost interest in looking at “gun stuff” each day, as many of the patches feature guns, bullets, and other random related themes. She had added them to her purple bedroom over time. I gave her a big hug, and told her I understood.
I did. A few weeks later, I purged my personal collection, keeping my best and favorites and choosing to give away and sell the many others that I really have no need for.
Another step occurred a week or two later when we were on the wast side of Boca Raton for other reasons, and had some time to waste. I asked her if she wanted to go check out a store I had been meaning to explore, and she agreed. Palm Beach Tactical is a unique boutique store that former Navy SEAL Shawn Ryan had told me to check out if I was ever in the area. Shawn was not there, but the owner was more than accommodating, and we checked out some of the custom work they had recently done. Turning a stock black Glock pistol in to a functional work of art has become a thing in the industry, and they do great work. American flags, skull themes, you name it. Ally and I enjoyed just looking at some of them, and she did handle a few, with the care and safe handling that’s been instilled at this point, she’s not awkward at all.
After a few weeks went by, Ally came to me and let me know it was time, she wanted to go to the range, BUT – she did not really want to be around other people. She was worried, understandably, about how she’d react to the noise. I made a call to NEXUS Shooting Center in Davie, and explained to the owner what I was interested in – using the VIP range that we had used for an interview series a year earlier. He told me that he’d give me a discounted rate, but that we had to have a private range officer, and we needed to cover that cost. No problem at all, and we had a date and time set.
During the drive over that morning, and throughout the day, Ally revealed to me her entire experience on February 14th and what she went through, with great detail. That’s her story and it’s not my place to share it here. But I can tell you that without a doubt that when the shit hit the fan, my girls were brave, cool, calm and collected on the outside that afternoon. On the outside that is – on the inside they were reacting with fear and the emotions that come with benign forced to instantly, unexpectedly question your life and living….and death, all at the same time. I can also reveal that their actions were a result of a little bit of training, and a lot of talking – we talked about these things, as difficult as that may sound, all of the time. Most Thursday night sushi dinners at home involved at least a preview of one of the stories we planned on covering on Gun News Weekly, with a review of those stories always followed with inquisition and a “what would you do” conversation. The Q&A was not usually about the gore and bloody details, but more along the lines of awareness and preparedness. Discussing the Pulse nightclub comes to mind, talking about options for evasion and escape, my girls had thought about the shit hitting the fan before.
To think about what my children had experienced that day – the fear, the adrenaline dump like they had never felt, the death in the air….it’s just unfathomable that any kids should have to go through this. And then I think about those who got shot and survived, having to deal with those memories, from the day of to the weeks after, rehab, and having their lives forever changed, forever being identified as a student who survived being shot at a school shooting. And then I ponder further, thinking about those who witnessed pure evil up close, with the combination of the sights, sounds and smells that must haunt them to this day.
At NEXUS that day, we had fun. We had a great time, enjoying the sport of shooting as we always had. Nexus allows for the competitive sides of the TacDaddy and “A-TAC” to shine, with video screen targets that you shoot with your own guns, against the apple tree, the asteroids attacking earth, or a realistic zombie outbreak. It’s one of the most fun ranges I’ve ever been to, and this edition of “range therapy” was real, and needed by both of us. It was cool to have a day at the range again with my favorite partner, she was going to be just fine.
“Do you still plan on owning a gun she n you are 21 and have your own home or apartment?” I asked, trying to gauge things from 30,000 feet. “Is there any doubt about that?” she responded. The school shooting was going to affect us both forever, but her resolve to be ABLE to protect herself, instilled at a young age, remained. She knows bad shit can happen, more than ever now. I see her in the future living a vigilant, but not paranoid type of life style, believing that she is her own first responder.
In the final weeks of the summer, while I was writing this book, a headline appeared on social media about an article in the Sun Sentinel, our local paper.
“For Parkland shooting victim Alaina Petty, the AR-15 was her favorite gun” is a headline clearly designed to get clicks and for impact. The truth of the matter is the fact that Alaina and millions of Americans would refer to their AR-15 as their favorite gun is completely irrelevant to the fact that the shooter in Parkland used one. Ryan Patty, who is now running for the school board, is a dad who like many owns guns as a responsible adult and bears literally no risk to you or anyone else that does not become a threat to his family. In that article he stated:
“One of [Alaina’s] favorite things to do was go to the gun range. 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.”
This article and the quotes within obviously hit home for not only myself but for Ally. I look forward to meeting Ryan one day and hope to share this book with him personally to let him know that he is not alone In how he chose to raise his daughter when it comes to this part of the story.
PART IV: CONCLUSIONS
Taking a real look at all of the data and all of the individual events that have occurred just over the past 5 years, I can say that this debate will indeed rage on. It will flare up. It will ebb and flow. It will be a major issue in upcoming elections as many running for office know that this topic is one that they can stand on one way or the other and get attention using scare tactics and fear mongering. The truth is that guns are in America, they are part of America’s culture whether you like it or hate it.
With the freedoms that it protects come the risks of having them used for nefarious reasons or ideals.
There is no going back. Going forward may seem like a daunting challenge given the passion of both extremes, but it is something that we must do. Making our kids safer in public places makes sense to me. Having the right to protect yourself also makes perfect sense. Merging that ideal with the desire of so many to live in a utopian world wherein one can choose to seemingly ignore that real life dangers and evil exists, that is the real challenge.