FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2018 file photo, people comfort each other after a candlelight vigil for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla. Sorrow is reverberating across the country Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021, as Americans joined a Florida community in remembering the 17 lives lost. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2018 file photo, people comfort each other after a candlelight vigil for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla. Sorrow is reverberating across the country Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021, as Americans joined a Florida community in remembering the 17 lives lost. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

On Parkland anniversary, Biden calls for tougher gun laws

Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered flags be lowered to half staff from sunrise to sunset across the state

Sorrow reverberated across the country Sunday as Americans, including President Joe Biden, joined a Florida community in remembering the 17 lives lost three years ago in the Parkland school shooting massacre.

“In seconds, the lives of dozens of families, and the life of an American community, were changed forever,” Biden said in a statement released Sunday.

The president used the occasion to call on Congress to strengthen gun laws, including requiring background checks on all gun sales and banning assault weapons.

There was no time to wait, the president said. “We owe it to all those we’ve lost and to all those left behind to grieve to make a change. The time to act is now.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered flags be lowered to half staff from sunrise to sunset across the state to honour those who perished when a former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas opened fire on campus with an AR-15 rifle on Valentines Day in 2018.

When the gunfire ended, 14 students and three staff members were dead, and 17 others were wounded. The suspect, Nikolas Cruz, is still awaiting trial.

In his proclamation for a day of remembrance, DeSantis asked fellow Floridians to pause for a moment of silence at 3 p.m. Sunday.

“The Parkland community is resilient in the wake of tragedy, reminding us just how strong and united Floridians can be in the face of such devastating loss,” the governor said in his proclamation.

The Republican governor also noted some of the school safety measures enacted since the tragedy three years ago, including money to install panic alert systems at schools across the state and to strengthen programs meant to prevent violence before they occur.

The panic alert measure was dubbed “Alyssa’s Law,” in honour of 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff, one of the students killed three years ago.

Parkland parents have been divided over how lawmakers should respond.

Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was 14 when she was killed in the shooting, addressed the president in a tweet Sunday.

“Mr. President, thank you for remembering the loved ones taken from us 3 years ago,” he wrote. “Alaina loved this country and the freedoms it guarantees. Common sense tells us that honouring her life does not require infringement on the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

In an interview Sunday, Petty said the president’s proposals won’t prevent more tragedies.

“It’s wrong to focus on the weapon,” said Petty, who is now a member of the state school board. “For those who understand what happened that day, there were mistakes. This was the most preventable school shooting in the history of our country. The warning signs were there. It was clear the killer had intentions to attack the school.”

Petty remembered his daughter as a friend to everyone, and recounted how important community service was to her.

“For those of us who lost loved ones that day, it’s pretty much like any other day. We miss them. There’s nothing we can do to bring them back. The only thing we can do is move forward and try to honour their memories and make sure this doesn’t happen to any other families,” he said.

But critics of the governor and Republican-controlled Legislature say guns are too easily accessible and say more needs to be done to keep assault-style guns away from potentially bad actors.

“The passage of time has done little to heal the heartbreak we felt upon hearing the shocking news three years ago today, nor dulled our sense of outrage at the lack of consequential legislative action from lawmakers since that horrible morning — laws that would prevent another Parkland from ever happening again,” said Manny Diaz, the chair of the Florida Democratic Party.

Over the years, deadly violence targeting schools has shaken the nation — including the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007 that claimed 32 lives and the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012. Even before the Parkland tragedy, there was already plenty of anguish in Florida over gun violence. Less than two years before, another gunman shot up the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people.

None of the deadly events produced comprehensive gun laws. Mass shootings have galvanized gun control advocates, who have been met with resistance from Republican lawmakers and their 2nd Amendment allies. It remains to be seen what will be done on the federal level, despite Democratic control of the White House and both chambers of Congress.

“This Administration will not wait for the next mass shooting to heed that call. We will take action to end our epidemic of gun violence and make our schools and communities safer,” the president said his statement Sunday.

In addition to background checks and an assault-weapons ban, Biden is calling on Congress to outlaw high-capacity magazines and make gun manufacturers liable for the role their products play in violence.

“For three years now, the Parkland families have spent birthdays and holidays without their loved ones,” Biden said.

“Today, as we mourn with the Parkland community, we mourn for all who have lost loved ones to gun violence,” he said.

“Over these three years, the Parkland families have taught all of us something profound,” the president continued. “Time and again, they have showed us how we can turn our grief into purpose – to march, organize, and build a strong, inclusive, and durable movement for change.”

Bobby Caina Calvan, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Tribunal to hear transgender inmate’s human rights complaint against Surrey Pretrial

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

An eagle sits in trees overlooking 1001 Steps in South Surrey, January 2021. The City of Surrey has received international recognition as a ‘tree city’ but an environmental group calls it an ‘empty accolade.’ (Tracy Holmes photo)
Environment organization calls Surrey’s ‘tree city’ designation ‘empty accolade’

Committee chair Allison Patton says international recognition is encouraging and sets a trend

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 5, 2021, the Surrey school district confirmed five more cases of a COVID-19 variant had been confirmed at five different schools. (File photo: Lauren Collins)
District sends out variant exposure notices to five Surrey schools

Superintendent says letters were issued March 3 and 4

Statue of Lady Justice at B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey man found guilty in 2018 murder of his wife

Rizig Bona’s next court date is today

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

FILE – An air ambulance helicopter takes off from the helipad at West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni, B.C. Although calls for an air ambulance are down in 2020, Port Alberni is one of the three highest regions for calls on Vancouver Island (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
BREAKING: Helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

The Nanaimo bar display at the Nanaimo Museum. (City of Nanaimo Instagram)
City of Nanaimo points to correct recipe after New York Times botches batch of bars

City addresses ‘controversy’ around dessert square’s layers

A man holds a picture of Chantel Moore during a healing gathering at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria on June 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. First Nation demands transparency in probe into second fatal RCMP shooting

‘Police have killed more Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation members than COVID’

Hope’s station house, moved from its original location along the railroad to 111 Old Hope Princeton Way. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Citizens file B.C. Ombudsperson complaint against Hope Council in Station House fracas

Demolition contract has been awarded, completed by April 30

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled Feb. 26 that the estate of deceased Sooke man and Hells Angels prospect Michael Widner is to be divided between his wife and his secret spouse. (Black Press Media file photo)
Estate of dead B.C. Hells Angels prospect to be divided between wife, secret spouse

Michael Widner’s 2017 death left a number of unanswered questions

This Dec. 2, 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of its Janssen subsidiary’s COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Johnson & Johnson via AP
Canada approves Johnson & Johnson’s 1-shot COVID-19 vaccine

It is the 4th vaccine approved in Canada and the 1st that requires just a single dose

The centre and left lanes just west of the Brunette Exit were blocked westbound on the Trans Canada Highway the morning of Friday, March, 5, 2021. (Drive BC)
UPDATE: Vehicle incident westbound Highway 1 in Coquitlam cleared

Earlier the centre and left lanes were blocked in the area

Most Read