Sunday marks the three-year anniversary of Florida’s worst school shooting, a tragic milestone for families of the 17 murder victims and countless traumatized survivors.
The horrific event at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland sparked the March For Our Lives movement, a nationwide gun-control effort launched by the school’s students and joined by hundreds of thousands of other teens, parents and supporters.
Florida lawmakers, who were in the midst of the 2018 legislative session when Nikolas Cruz unleashed a volley of bullets at his former school in Broward County, took the rare step of enacting some gun-control measures in response to the shooting.
The Legislature, for example, raised from 18 to 21 the age to purchase rifles and long guns, such as the semi-automatic weapon used to kill 14 students and three school staff members.
Cruz was 19 years old at the time of the Feb. 14 attack on the school. Cruz was charged with 17 counts of murder, and his trial is in limbo, as his legal team tries to avoid the death penalty sought by prosecutors. Shortly after then-Gov. Rick Scott signed the legislation, the National Rifle Association filed a lawsuit challenging the age requirement, arguing that it runs afoul of the Second Amendment. The lawsuit is still pending.
Students, victims of violent crimes and gun-control advocates, meanwhile, continue the push for stronger gun laws. Stand With Parkland-the National Association of Families for Safe Schools, a group headed by the fathers of three students who were killed at the school, is advocating for “practical public safety reforms in response to mass shootings,” according to the non-profit organization’s tax filings.
The group, which is also pushing for national gun reforms, is backing a Florida legislative effort supported by two Broward County Democrats that proponents say would close “a dangerous gap” in school safety. The “Parents Need to Know” proposal (HB 951), sponsored in the House by Rep. Dan Daley, D-Coral Springs, would require school officials to inform parents about serious safety threats and incidents, along with steps schools are taking to address the issues.
Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, is expected to file the proposal in the Senate.
“On Feb. 14, 2018, my daughter Carmen lay dead on the floor of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, her cell phone ringing endlessly as her mother and I frantically called, longing desperately to hear her voice. Tragically, I found out too late this was a school with serious security issues,” Stand with Parkland board member Phil Schentrup said in a news release Friday. “The Parents Need to Know Act is a powerful yet simple remedy to these egregious problems. … I believe with this law in place, Carmen and 16 other amazing people would be alive today and every school across the state would be a safer place.”
To honor the lives lost, Gov. Ron DeSantis has ordered that flags be flown at half-staff at state and local government buildings on Sunday. The state Capitol will be illuminated in Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ school colors, burgundy and silver, from Sunday through Feb. 21.