Gina Montalto, my straight-A, kindhearted, bubbly, 14-year-old daughter, was a freshman and one of the 17 wonderful souls killed by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Valentine’s Day 2018. Her classmates who survived were galvanized by the six-minute massacre, and so were the families of the victims: We formed Stand With Parkland – The National Association of Families for Safe Schools to be a voice for all our nation’s families seeking positive change.
We’re still searching. And, in the meantime, four mass shootings shook America during a six-week period this summer.
After decades of a cycle in which horrible violence is followed by calls for action, debates, and then no action, it is okay — maybe even necessary — to accept singles instead of holding out for a home run when it comes to improving public safety. What is unacceptable is letting another massacre occur in our nation’s schools or elsewhere with no action taken to keep Americans safer.
Take two measures with vast public support: enhanced background checks and promoting Extreme Risk Protection Orders, sometimes referred to as red-flag laws. Risk Protection Orders respect due process, but enable law enforcement or family members to obtain a court order to temporarily remove firearms from people posing a danger to themselves or others.
Both of these measures have bipartisan support in Congress, and President Trump has publicly supported them — sometimes more enthusiastically than at other times. Other reformers seeking broader, more controversial gun-control measures might dismiss proposals such as helping more states enact extreme risk protection laws as insignificant steps. In fact, it would be the most significant firearms safety bill passed in two decades, and it would surely save lives.
Another bipartisan measure before Congress right now is the Eagles Act, named after the mascot of our children’s school in Parkland. This bill increases funding for the National Threat Assessment Center, which is operated by the Secret Service and studies and develops ways to prevent all targeted violence attacks aimed at places like schools or places of worship, or at large events. Passage of this bill to help stop future attacks would be a wonderful tribute to those who have lost their lives in mass shootings.
Family members, neighbors and law-enforcement officials all recognized the myriad warning signs about the man who opened fire in Parkland’s high school long before he began the shooting. Florida’s conservative legislature passed an Extreme Risk Protection law after the Parkland massacre, as have more than a dozen other states. These laws have been successfully used many hundreds of times to protect American lives. Lives are literally at stake, and there is no credible reason these proposals should not be passed and signed into law by year’s end.
I pray the will to do something remains firm in Washington, even as unrelated controversies roil the capital. The White House continues to work with Stand With Parkland on ways to make schools safer, and that ongoing dialogue makes us hopeful that the president will trust his gut instincts on basic measures such as better background checks and red-flag laws. I am optimistic that our president will take the lead to ensure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) holds Senate votes. I am also hopeful that House Democrats will embrace areas where common ground can be found, rather than minimize the importance of effective proposals that don’t go as far as they want.
Changing firearms laws alone will not be enough. But passage of practical and simple steps that have broad bipartisan support can improve our ability to prevent future carnage. Surely, taking these basic steps can’t be too much to expect from our elected leaders in Congress and at the White House. As is true in both legislating and in baseball, home runs aren’t the only way to put numbers on the scoreboard. And you can’t get on base, or take the first step toward meaningful change, if you refuse to step up to the plate at all.