‘This Time Must Be Different’: Mental Health, Gun Control Reforms Called for by Florida Parents Whose Children Died in Shooting

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Families who lost loved ones in the Florida school shooting issued an urgent plea on Monday to state lawmakers, who were struggling to reach a consensus on school safety measures before the end of the legislative session this week.

“Our message is simple: We must be the last families to lose loved ones to mass murder in school,” said Ryan Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter, Alaina, died in the February 14 shooting. “This time must be different and we demand action.”

Flowers, candles and mementos sit outside one of the makeshift memorials at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on February 27, 2018. (Credit: RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)

Flowers, candles and mementos sit outside one of the makeshift memorials at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on February 27, 2018. (Credit: RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)

State lawmakers are struggling to agree on a legislative response to the Parkland shooting. The Florida State Senate passed a compromise bill on Monday that each side took issue with. Some Republicans don’t like the idea of raising the age to buy a firearm to 21, and some Democrats wanted a ban on assault-style rifles. Gov. Rick Scott is opposed to a controversial measure that would train and arm teachers, though the version that passed on Monday put limitations on the program.

People attend a memorial service for victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 15, 2018 in Coral Springs, Florida. (Credit: Gaston De Cardenas / AFP / Getty Images)

People attend a memorial service for victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 15, 2018 in Coral Springs, Florida. (Credit: Gaston De Cardenas / AFP / Getty Images)

In a news conference outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High on Monday, Petty urged lawmakers to prioritize legislation and funding for the following goals, which he said the families of the 17 victims supported:

– Enhance safety and security in schools.

– Keep guns away from those who pose a risk to themselves and others.

– Improve access to mental health care resources for at-risk youth.

Petty cited a proposal from Gov. Rick Scott as “good movement” toward those goals. Among other things, Scott wants to provide millions of dollars in funding to “harden” schools with a variety of security measures. His proposal includes requiring at least one armed school resource officer for every 1,000 students; instituting measures to keep weapons out of the hands of the violent or mentally ill; and expanding mental health services statewide.

“We implore our state leaders and specifically the Florida legislature to demonstrate the ability to take action,” Petty said, urging Floridians to contact their representatives.

“The victims’ families can’t make this change happen alone.”

Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime died in the shooting, described Gov. Scott’s proposal as the “minimally acceptable” effort that could get passed in the legislature.

“We want to get something passed that immediately addresses the safety in schools,” he said.

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