FRESNO, Calif. - After the deadly shooting in Florida one Central Valley native is working to protect schools from potential attacks but said California laws are getting in the way.
Military veteran and congressional candidate Bill Merryman said senseless school violence needs to end. He wants to see armed veterans on and around school campuses as an added level of protection.
For Carlos Tovar, war zone memories filled with pride will last a lifetime. The Marine Corps veteran served in Iraq after 9/11. He, like many veterans, struggled transitioning from a war zone to civilian life.
"My job in the military was shooting front lines and blowing up bombs. How do I translate that to a civilian sector in job?" he said.
Enter Bill Merryman. In response to 2012's Sandy Hook shooting he started Contingency Security. The goal? To hire veterans like Tovar to act as security in and on school campuses, but he said California state gun laws are blocking the business idea.
"They have left our schools vulnerable. The Gun-Free School Zones Act has not prevented people from wanting to create this type of violence from bringing guns onto schools. It just prevents law abiding citizen from bringing firearms onto schools," he said.
Merryman and Tovar said Florida's school shooting last week hit too close to home. They said school safety is not a gun issue and should be a top priority.
"What's wrong with society? What's wrong with our mental health? What happened to this kid to make him do this?" said Tovar.
"It's not the fire arm that is the issue. It's the motivation behind the individual that is causing the problem," said Merryman.
Prior to January 2016 anyone with a valid California concealed weapons permit had the right to walk onto a school, college, or university campus with a handgun. A few California school districts including Kingsburg and Kern voted to authorize some CCW holders on school campuses.