TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Sorrow reverberated across the country Sunday as Americans, including President Joe Biden, joined a Florida community in remembering the 17 lives lost three years ago in the Parkland school shooting massacre.
“In seconds, the lives of dozens of families, and the life of an American community, were changed forever,” Biden said in a statement released Sunday.
The president used the occasion to call on Congress to strengthen gun laws, including requiring background checks on all gun sales and banning assault weapons.
There was no time to wait, the president said. “We owe it to all those we’ve lost and to all those left behind to grieve to make a change. The time to act is now.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered flags be lowered to half staff from sunrise to sunset across the state to honor those who perished when a former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas opened fire on campus with an AR-15 rifle on Valentines Day in 2018.
When the gunfire ended, 14 students and three staff members were dead, and 17 others were wounded. The suspect, Nikolas Cruz, is still awaiting trial.
In his proclamation for a day of remembrance, DeSantis asked fellow Floridians to pause for a moment of silence at 3 p.m. Sunday.
“The Parkland community is resilient in the wake of tragedy, reminding us just how strong and united Floridians can be in the face of such devastating loss,” the governor said in his proclamation.
The Republican governor also noted some of the school safety measures enacted since the tragedy three years ago, including money to install panic aler systems at schools across the state and to strengthen programs meant to prevent violence before they occur.
The panic alert measure was dubbed “Alyssa’s Law,” in honor of 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff, one of the students killed three years ago.
None of the deadly events produced comprehensive gun laws. Mass shootings have galvanized gun control advocates, who have been met with resistance from Republican lawmakers and their 2nd Amendment allies. It remains to be seen what will be done on the federal level, despite Democratic control of the White House and both chambers of Congress.
“This Administration will not wait for the next mass shooting to heed that call. We will take action to end our epidemic of gun violence and make our schools and communities safer,” the president said his statement Sunday.