Kamala Harris Visits Parkland and Urges States to Adopt Red-Flag Gun Laws

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Vice President Kamala Harris on Saturday toured the still-bloody and bullet-pocked classroom building in Parkland, Fla., where a gunman killed 14 students and three staff members in 2018, using the grim backdrop to announce a new federal resource center and to call for stricter enforcement of gun laws.

The freshman building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had been preserved as evidence for criminal trials and is set to be demolished this summer. For now, it remains a memorial to one of the most shocking mass shootings in the history of the United States.

In remarks after taking her tour and meeting for more than an hour with family members of victims of the attack, Ms. Harris said the experience had been an compelling one.

“Let us, through the courage and the call to action of these families, find it in ourselves to consider what they’ve been through as some level of motivation and inspiration for all of us,” she said.

“This school is soon going to be torn down,” the vice president added. “But the memory of it will never be erased.”

Ms. Harris said the attack, carried out by a former student with a history of mental health and behavior problems, should prompt officials around the country to embrace local red-flag laws. These allow courts to temporarily seize firearms and other dangerous weapons when they believe a person may be a threat to themselves or others. The Parkland shooter had purchased his gun legally.

In her remarks, Ms. Harris announced the creation of the National Extreme Risk Protection Order Resource Center, which White House officials said would provide training and technical assistance to states as they work to implement their red-flag laws.

“Red-flag laws are simply designed to allow communities a vehicle through which they can share, and have somewhere to share it, information about the concern about the potential danger or the crying out for help of an individual,” she said.

In her brief remarks, Ms. Harris said that only 21 states had passed red flag laws and that only six of those had accepted the Biden administration’s offer of financial resources to help implement them.

“I challenge the others: ‘Come on over. We’ve got some resources for you to help you implement the work that you have done” she said.

The visit by Ms. Harris to the school is part of the administration’s broader effort to increase gun control measures as the United States continues to suffer regular episodes of devastating gun violence, sometimes targeting young people in schools.

In 2022, President Biden signed into law the first significant federal gun control measure in decades. The law expanded the background check system for prospective gun buyers under the age of 21, gave authorities up to 10 business days to examine juvenile and mental health records and set aside millions of dollars so states can fund intervention programs.

But shootings have continued at a horrific pace since then. Scores of people have been killed in mass shootings in Lewiston, Maine; Monterey Park, Calif.; Louisville, Ky.; Hollywood, Fla.; and many other cities across the country.

Ms. Harris said that must change. But she expressed determination to continue fighting the political gridlock in Washington, where Republicans and some Democrats on Capitol Hill have long blocked more aggressive measures, like a ban on assault-style weapons that are often used in the deadliest mass shootings.

“I will continue to advocate,” she said. “Well, what we must do in terms of universal background checks, an assault weapons ban, what we must continue to do to treat diagnose and treat trauma in our communities.”

Reporters were not allowed to join Ms. Harris on her tour of the classroom building where the attacks had taken place, or to hear her conversations with the families.

Previous descriptions of the building included blood stains from the victims still on the walls, glass shattered from bullets on the floor, and books, paper and other school supplies strewn about as they were on that grim day.

Jurors in the trial of Nikolas Cruz, the convicted shooter, were taken on a tour of the building in the summer of 2022 as they deliberated over his punishment. (He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.)

Later, the school district announced that it would demolish the building.

“Broward County Public Schools reached this decision in consultation with health and safety experts, and out of concern for the well-being of students and staff on campus,” officials said in a statement at the time. “As we continue to heal, we remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting the Marjory Stoneman Douglas community.”


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