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Parkland parents reflect on school safety reforms following 2018 shooting

'The threat and the context of things constantly change,' Parkland father Tony Montalto says
Parkland shooting Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
Posted at 10:31 AM, Apr 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-05 10:31:14-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Jury selection to determine the Parkland shooter's punishment began Monday.

It follows the 2018 incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 died and another 17 were wounded.

The defendant has confessed to the massacre.

The panel of jurors will decide whether the 23-year-old should spend the rest of his life in prison, without the possibility of parole, or face death for his crimes on Feb. 14.

17 victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland
These are the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland in February 2018.

As victims call for justice in court, others continue to push for change at the state Capitol.

Lawmakers were fast to act four years ago, signing SB 7026 into law a few weeks after the tragedy.

Its key provisions included:

  • Raising the age to buy firearms from 18 to 21
  • Strengthening gun-related mental health restrictions 
  • Created the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission to further propose changes to the law.

Parkland father Tony Montalto helped push the measure through after losing his 14-year-old daughter, Gina. He called it a "vital first step" but would like to see lawmakers continue to make improvements going forward.

"The threat and the context of things constantly change," Montalto said. "We're hopeful that there will be some form of school safety bill every year in the Florida Legislature."

Parkland father Tony Montalto
Parkland father Tony Montalto continues to advocate for policies to improve school safety.

Montalto advocated this year for approval of HB 1421 , which both chambers of the Legislature gave unanimous support.

Like its predecessor, the bill contains numerous provisions including:

  • Requiring schools have emergency family reunification plans 
  • Better training for school law enforcement
  • Measures to ensure districts comply with safety standards

DeSantis gets the bill next and is likely to sign. It has yet to arrive on his desk.

Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, discusses school safety, April 4, 2022
Rep. Christine Hunschofsky helped pass the latest school safety bill, HB 1421, in Florida.

There is already talk of bills for next year. They could include another attempt to ban "ghost guns." The hard to trace weapons are sold in pieces online and then assembled at home.

Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, D-Coconut Creek, has tried to get approval for the idea in the past. The former Parkland mayor said work to improve safety is never over.

"There are always better ways to do things," she said. "Whether it is providing mental health services, whether it is behavioral health services at the schools, whether it is physical safety. Tthere's so much changing constantly.