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.

Just Posted

Flora Northwest was taken to the Ermineskin residential school when she was six years old. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Ermineskin residential school survivor: ‘It just brings me back to the cries at night’

Discovery in Kamloops of remains of 215 children a painful time for survivors

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer drops to 71 active cases of COVID-19

Province adds 127 new cases of the virus

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active cases of the virus

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

The Montreal Police logo is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Some Quebec politicians are calling for an investigation after a video was released that appears to show a Montreal police officer with his leg on a young Black man’s neck during an arrest. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Probe called for after video appearing to show Montreal officer’s knee on Black youth’s neck

Politicians call for investigation after clip evokes memories of George Floyd incident

Most Read