Harris goes to Parkland, calls for stricter gun laws

Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Florida high school on Saturday where a gunman tragically took the lives of 17 people in 2018. Her purpose was to advocate for stronger laws regarding the removal of firearms from high-risk individuals.

During her visit at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Harris met with the families of the victims and walked through the halls of the school where the heartbreaking event took place, a building that is set to be demolished later this year.

As part of her agenda, Harris plans to urge 29 states that do not currently have “red flag” laws to enact them and to encourage the 15 states that already have these laws to utilize federal funds to implement them, as stated by a White House official.

These laws allow courts to issue “extreme risk protection orders” to remove firearms from individuals deemed at risk of harming themselves or others.

Additionally, six U.S. states with these laws are utilizing funding from the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to introduce crisis intervention programs, according to the official.

Although Florida passed a red flag law after the 2018 tragedy, they have not utilized the federal funding available for this purpose, as noted by the official.

The perpetrator of the Parkland shooting, a former student aged 19 at the time, had a history of mental health issues. He later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison.

The building where the shooting occurred has largely remained untouched since 2018, with visible reminders like bloodstains and bullet holes. It stands ominously on the campus, enclosed by a chain-link fence, serving as a constant reminder of the tragic event for current students.

Gun violence has been a focal point in President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign for 2024, with Harris overseeing efforts to address the issue. They have traveled across the country to meet with families impacted by mass shootings.

While some see red flag laws as infringing on gun rights, others argue that these laws can prevent deaths, citing various studies. The U.S. has the highest rate of firearm homicides among high-income countries with populations over 10 million, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Biden aims to pass new legislation such as an assault weapons ban and universal background checks for gun sales, but faces challenges in a divided Congress. Former President Donald Trump has expressed support for red flag laws but opposes broader measures advocated by Biden.

© 2024 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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