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

Members of the Abbotsford Community Action Team include (from left) Bev Olfert, Rebecca Tice, Tally Clement, Const. Mary Boonstra, Mandy Aujla, Wanda Phillips and Devinder Dherari-Sidhu. (Submitted photo)
Abbotsford group raises awareness about sexual exploitation of youth

Community Action Team uses posters, stickers and online information

The driver of a pickup truck failed to stop after knocking down a wooden fence on March 3, 2021. (screen grab)
VIDEO: Footage catches pick-up driver smashing fence on Abbotsford/Langley border

Driver came forward after video circulated on social media

Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend service, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Lawyers for the British Columbia government and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms are back in B.C. Supreme Court today, squaring off over the legality of COVID-19 rules that prohibit in-person religious services. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. top doctor has power to restrict access to a place during health hazard: lawyer

Under B.C.’s Public Health Act, Jacqueline Hughes says, Henry can restrict or prevent entry to a place

Photo by Dale Klippenstein
Two men taken to hospital after fight on Keeping Road in Abbotsford

One of the men suffers serious injuries in incident on Thursday night

Stattonrock Design + Build in Abbotsford won four awards at the recent Fraser Valley Housing Awards of Excellence, including for Best Renovation – Whole House and Best Kitchen Renovation over $50,000 for this house.
Abbotsford company wins four housing excellence awards

Stattonrock Design + Build’s honours include Residential Renovator of the Year

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

More than ever before, as pandemic conditions persist, the threat of data breaches and cyberattacks continues to grow, according to SFU professor Michael Parent. (Pixabay photo)
SFU expert unveils 5 ways the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed cybersecurity

Recognizing these changes is the first in a series of steps to mitigate them once the pandemic ends, and before the next: Michael Parent

Lower Mainland teens with Ocean Wise’s YouthToSea program have launched an initiative called Clean Coastal, Eat Local, through which they’re offering restaurant gift cards to individuals or households that organize a coastal cleanup in the month of March. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise)
Teens challenge Lower Mainlanders to clean up their act

YouthToSea offers restaurant gift cards in exchange for a cleaner coastline

Kevin Haughton is the founder/technologist of Courtenay-based Clearflo Solutions. Scott Stanfield photo
Islander aims Clearflo clean drinking water system at Canada’s remote communities

Entrepreneur $300,000 mobile system can produce 50,000 litres of water in a day, via solar energy

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

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

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

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

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

Most Read