Associated Press/Gerald Herbert
- One year after a deadly massacre left 17 students and staff members dead in Parkland, Florida, the debate over gun control in America remains ongoing.
- A number of measures have already been put into place, such as red-flag laws and regulations on bump stock devices.
- But gun-control advocates still have a ways to go — and a contingent of gun-rights advocates have also been championing alternate ideas to stop mass shootings.
A deadly shooting that killed 17 students and staff members at a Parkland, Florida, high school one year ago had a profound impact on Americans, reigniting what has long been a bitter and increasingly polarized national debate over the role of guns in American life.
The shooting kickstarted a powerful youth-led movement against gun violence, after students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School grieved publicly for their friends and classmates and spearheaded the March For Our Lives campaign.
But the movement also sparked blowback from a strong contingent of gun-rights advocates, who identified the real issue as a lack of school safety, and set an agenda for "hardening" buildings and ramping up security measures.
The clash between the movements sparked a number of ongoing debates over controversial ideas, ranging from arming teachers to banning bump stocks.
Here’s a look at what’s happened on gun control since the shooting.
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
One of the most widely supported measures to spring from the aftermath of the Parkland shooting are known as "red-flag laws," which give police and courts the authority to use a restraining order to temporarily confiscate a person’s guns if they’re deemed a danger to themselves or others.
As the Parkland gunman had a history of well-documented behavioral problems and run-ins with police, advocates of gun-violence restraining orders have speculated that the massacre could have been prevented if a red-flag law had been in place in Florida at the time.
Since the Parkland shooting, nine states — including Florida — and a number of localities have implemented red-flag laws. An Associated Press analysis found that more than 1,700 restraining orders were issued in 2018 alone that allowed authorities to temporarily seize guns from people considered at-risk.
Though gun-control at the federal level has proved a major challenge — particularly under a Republican administration — Congress is gearing up to tighten background check laws regardless.
Currently, all federally licensed gun dealers must conduct background checks for each purchase, but gun-control advocates have argued that the current laws are too loose, and exclude private gun sales.
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee approved a measure that would require all gun sales and most gun transfers in the country to undergo background checks. The measure has already garnered some support among Republican lawmakers, and is set to face a vote on the House floor.
"It is a beginning," McBath said Wednesday during deliberations over the bill.
Elections and voting
A primary target of the March For Our Lives movement was the midterm elections, where a they focused on electing gun-control advocates and ousting pro-gun ones.
Beyond that, the student activists at the center of the gun-violence prevention movement have been waging a public war against the National Rifle Association, which backs candidates who support gun rights.
Associated Press/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
The midterms yielded a mixed bag of results for both sides — 88 of the 129 candidates the NRA backed ultimately won their races, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Yet the gun-control advocates claimed some victories as well, defeating roughly 24 pro-gun candidates in House races.
They also, notably, elected Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia, a mother who lost her teenage son to gun violence and who was inspired to run for office after the Parkland shooting.
Though the controversial devices weren’t used in the Parkland shooting, the February 14 massacre reignited a new debate over bump stocks and even drew the attention of President Donald Trump, who vowed to ban them even as gun-rights advocates protested.
The devices accelerate the gunfire from semiautomatic weapons, and were used in the October 1, 2017 massacre in Las Vegas, which ultimately killed 58 people.
Associated Press/Allen G. Breed
The devices could be legally purchased and installed onto semiautomatic firearms, harnessing the recoil energy produced from each shot and bumping the weapon back and forth to imitate automatic gunfire.
Late last year, the Trump administration issued a new regulation banning the sale or possession of the devices and giving their owners 90 days to destroy them or turn them in.
The Parkland shooting propelled a number of controversial ideas into the mainstream discourse — most notably, the proposal to arm teachers.
Trump himself has championed the idea, arguing that shooters wouldn’t dare to target schools if they knew teachers and staff members would be armed.
Several parents of Parkland victims have also backed the idea, including those who sat on a Florida panel that investigated the shooting. Last month, they unanimously approved a report that, among other proposals, recommended some teachers be armed to protect students.
At least 10 states currently allow staff members at schools to possess guns on campus, according to the Education Commission of the States. The particulars of the policies vary by district and by school — for instance, in some states the guns have to be locked in safes, and in others, staff members can wear them in holsters.
Florida lawmakers are currently working to push through a bill that would allow some teachers to be armed, though the efforts have faced significant blowback from teachers’ unions and Parkland residents.
- Read more:
- These are the victims of last year’s deadly Parkland shooting
- A year after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, this is how students, families, and staff are remembering the victims
- A Republican lawmaker tried to kick 2 Parkland fathers out of a congressional hearing on gun violence and said the real danger facing Americans is illegal immigration
- Gun control really works — here’s the science to prove it
- These are the victims of last year’s deadly Parkland shooting
- Parkland victim’s father says he is ‘haunted’ by the memory of his last morning with her: ‘Did I say I love you?’
- Leaving social media, cleaning beaches, and dyed hair: Parkland survivors find personal ways to honor former classmates one year after shooting