While Broward County officials focused on healing and service on Friday, many of the victims’ families and friends reiterated their calls for gun law reform.
Two years ago today, 17 innocent people lost their lives when an armed gunman stormed into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and opened fire.
To honor the 14 students and three school staff members who lost their lives, school districts across the country, including those in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, observed a moment of silence at 10:17 a.m. this morning, the exact time the first shots were fired two years ago. Broward County also declared February 14th a Day of Service and Love, dismissed students early, and hosted a day of service for the community to come together.
“We hope that this is a day that we work with our students to help them develop positive character traits, to help them understand the importance of kindness,” said Robert Runcie, Broward County Superintendent of Schools, at a news conference.
The Parkland shooting rocked the nation and the students who survived the incident refused to let it fade from the American consciousness, as many other mass shootings have. These high schoolers expressed their anger and sadness on national television, confronted sheepish lawmakers for accepting donations from the National Rifle Association (NRA), organized rallies across the nation, and founded March For Our Lives, an organization dedicated to ending gun violence. They demanded action.
Two years later, they’ve achieved some results. While President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have blocked all meaningful gun reform at the federal level, states have responded to activists’ demands and strengthened their gun laws.
In the weeks following the shooting, Florida’s state legislature passed a Red Flag law allowing police to temporarily take away weapons from people deemed a threat to themselves or others. In 2018 alone, 67 gun safety bills were signed into law in 26 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Giffords Law Center.
But congressional action remains the goal and on Wednesday, organizers with March For Our Lives reiterated their call for gun law reform during a protest outside McConnell’s office.
“We’re waiting on Mitch McConnell. We’re waiting on him to act. We’re waiting on him to be bold. We’re waiting on him to save us,” one student said. “All of us are here because we care. We could be in school, we could be doing other things, but we’re here because we have demands and we’re not gonna stop until Mitch McConnell listens.”
On Friday, other prominent gun safety advocates honored the victims and joined March For Our Lives in demanding action.
Gun violence has persisted in the past two years. There have been 759 mass shootings, 44 school shootings in the U.S. since Parkland, and gun violence has taken the lives of at least 1,582 children, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
This isn’t lost on Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter Jaime in the Parkland shooting. Guttenberg took to Twitter on Friday to plead with Americans to demand change, not just for Jaime, but to protect themselves as well.
“People always ask me, what can they do. I will answer,” Gutenberg wrote. “I need everyone who reads this to promise to PLEASE VOTE! By this I mean EVERY election possible. VOTE FOR JAIME GUTTENBERG! Vote for your own safety from gun violence.”