One year later: How has school safety, gun control policy changed since the Parkland shooting?
On Feb. 14, 2018, a gunman shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Here's a look at what's changed — and what hasn't.
One year ago today, a 19-year-old former student returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, with an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle, killing 17 and wounding several others. Parkland became the focal point of a national dialogue surrounding school shootings and gun violence. And since the massacre last Valentine’s Day, some say lots has changed, and others say not enough.
In the 365 days since the Parkland violence, dozens of federal and state laws have passed that relate to school safety and/or gun violence. Several groups formed to address what went wrong at Stoneman Douglas that day and how schools across the country can do a better job of keeping students safe. And hundreds of thousands have joined a wave of activism — led by Parkland survivors — that moves to spur action ensuring mass shootings and gun violence never happens again.
Here’s a look at some of what’s changed — and what hasn’t — since Feb. 14, 2018:
About a month after Parkland, Congress passed the STOP School Violence Act of 2018, which moved to fund safety training for schools, students and local law enforcement; anonymous reporting systems to disclose threats; and threat assessment and crisis intervention teams.
In December, the Trump administration issued a regulation to ban bump stocks, which make it easier to fire rounds from a semi-automatic weapon.
The federal government also increased funding for school safety measures in its fiscal 2019 budget.
Gun control and school safety policy didn’t just stem from the nation’s capital. The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence tracked 1,638 firearm bills in 2018, with 67 gun safety laws enacted across 26 states and the District of Columbia. (All the information in this section was compiled by the Giffords Law Center.)
- Seven states, including Florida, passed laws that address background checks, while four constricted minimum age laws that detail how old a person has to be to access and own firearms.
- Policies surrounding bump stocks and other trigger activators were strengthened in nine states and the District of Columbia.
- New Jersey, Vermont and D.C. passed legislation that either bans or increases penalties for certain-sized magazines.
- Eight states and the District now allow family members, law enforcement or other community members to petition to keep at-risk individuals from accessing firearms.
- In Delaware and New Jersey, laws now exist that take away firearms to individuals who are dangerous because of a mental illness.
- Four states expanded laws that say who isn’t allowed to buy or own firearms.
- Florida is one of nine states (others are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York and Rhode Island) that passed legislation to fund urban gun violence reduction programs.
- Vermont was the only state to ban unauthorized possession of guns in K-12 school buildings and on buses.
- In the days and weeks after the Parkland shooting, President Trump said he supported legislation to improve the federal background check system and raising the minimum age limit to 21 on gun purchases. (He backed off raising the minimum age limit about a month later.)
- Congress attempted but failed to ban bump stocks during the past year, but one day before the one-year anniversary of the Parkland massacre, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee was said to be taking up legislation that would tighten background checks.
- In August, it was revealed that the Education Department was considering using federal grant funding to arm teachers, but Education Secretary Betsy DeVos later said she had no intention of taking a position on the matter.
At the start of this year's state legislative sessions, several pieces of gun violence and school safety legislation have come before lawmakers. The information in this section comes from Education Dive's Tracker: 50 states of education policy.
- Arkansas lawmakers filed several school safety bills, including a mandate for bleeding control training in public schools.
- Florida, unsurprisingly, has already seen school safety proposals ahead of its legislative session. One bill, titled the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, would iron out how often schools would have to perform active shooter drills. Other Florida proposals move to change rules guiding gun possession at schools. Top Republican senators have moved to expand a law that would allow teachers to carry guns.
- A Kentucky bill pushes for more school resource officers, school safety training and mental health counselors, while two additional bills move to expand gun control policy; however, another proposal would allow people with concealed deadly weapon licenses to carry their guns in schools.
- Maryland, North Dakota and Virginia lawmakers filed bills that would secure more funding for school safety.
- A comprehensive school safety bill in Utah moved to revamp evacuation drills, create a threat assessment and support team and require schools to conduct a climate survey, while a Wyoming bill would mandate schools to develop and review their own safety plans annually.
Federal and state commissions were formed in the aftermath of the Parkland massacre to investigate the shooting and issue recommendations to boost student safety.
- Trump announced in March 2018 the formation of the Federal Commission on School Safety, which, among other issues, would examine Obama’s Rethink School Discipline guidance that aimed to eliminate racial disparities in out-of-school suspensions. The commission, headed by DeVos, held four listening sessions to hear from members of the public and conducted four school visits. Ultimately, it recommended scrapping the Obama-era discipline guidelines, as well as creating more secure school buildings and increasing access to mental health resources.
- In Florida, a 15-member commission formed to investigate the shooting, and in early January, issued its recommendations. It concluded that multiple security breaches and issues within Parkland's protocol system were partially to blame for what happened, as the security program didn’t keep the shooter out of the building and there was no clear lockdown plan for classrooms. The group suggested arming teachers, providing more training for educators to carry firearms and upping spending on mental health resources. It also advised creating and implementing stronger emergency plans and locking doors when they’re not in use.
- The day before the one-year anniversary of the Parkland shooting, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis asked a grand jury to investigate schools' safety measures, but more specifically, it will look at potential failures of Broward County schools.
While many called for stricter gun laws, the federal commission didn’t give the firearms discussion much attention and didn’t issue any recommendations regarding gun restrictions.
While Parkland was by no means the first school shooting, it spurred what is arguably one of the largest waves of activism surrounding gun violence. Just days after the massacre, student survivors started the Never Again movement and devised a plan for nationwide March for Our Lives rallies.
Months after the shooting, these students remained in the national spotlight and have continued to be staunch advocates for change. They've spoken out on social media, in interviews with major news outlets and in public forums. In part because of their activism, politicians, celebrities and other high-profile figures around the country have joined the movement, and it's played a hand in some of the policy proposals put forth in the past year.
While dialogue around gun control and violence still has momentum, the debate has become increasingly polarized, and Republicans and Democrats have struggled to reach compromise. In addition, education issues — including teacher pay and school funding — have garnered significant attention nationwide in a way that gun control policy, as it relates to school safety, hasn’t.
Teacher activism has boomed during the past year, with educators taking part in demonstrations, walkouts and strikes to advocate for change. But while initiatives including mental health resources, smaller class sizes and higher pay have all been part of this movement, school safety policy has not been expressed as a main focus of teachers unions.
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