On the third anniversary of a school shooting that left 17 people dead, U.S. President Joe Biden called for tighter laws governing guns.
Sunday marks the third anniversary of a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that killed 14 students and three staff members. Another 17 people were injured. The tragedy turned some survivors into household names across America as they fought for safer schools and stronger gun control laws.
“Our hearts are with everyone in the community today and every day,” March for Our Lives, the organization started by student survivors of the 2018 attack, wrote on Twitter.
2.14.18— March For Our Lives (@AMarch4OurLives) February 14, 2021
Our hearts are with everyone in the community today and every day. pic.twitter.com/t8IehQesOr
In a statement released Sunday, Biden lauded the efforts of survivors and activists from Parkland to call for better gun laws.
“This Administration will not wait for the next mass shooting to heed that call,” the statement read.
"Today, I am calling on Congress to enact commonsense gun law reforms, including requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers who knowingly put weapons of war on our streets.”
Despite a history of mental health problems and threatening behavior, Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old shooter in Parkland, was able to buy an AR-15-style, semi-automatic rifle, which he used to open fire on students and teachers at the school, police say.
Now 22, Cruz awaits trial, which has been delayed in part because of the coronavirus pandemic. Prosecutors have stated they would seek the death penalty. Cruz confessed to the crimes and his lawyers have said he would plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence.
Support for stricter gun laws typically breaks down along political party lines with Republicans advocating for gun rights and Democrats seeking more gun control measures. Public support for new regulation waxes and wanes. In a Gallup poll conducted in the fall of 2020, 57% of Americans said they supported stricter gun laws, down 7 percentage points from the prior year and down 10 percentage points from 2018, the year of the Parkland shooting.
In 2019, legislation that had bipartisan support in the House to increase background checks for gun purchases stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Many Republicans and some Democrats have been reluctant to support measures that would make it more difficult to purchase firearms or outlaw some types of guns, citing the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which says in part that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
But on Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she hopes to try again.
"We will enact these and other life-saving bills and deliver the progress that the Parkland community and the American people deserve and demand," she said in a statement.
National Rifle Association spokeswoman Amy Hunter told the Wall Street Journal that Biden “may become the most antigun president in American history.”
Meanwhile in Parkland, parents of victims continue to work to pressure Congress to pass gun control reforms.
Manuel Oliver, whose son Joaquin was killed in the 2018 shooting, is organizing the sending of “shame cards” to members of Congress, which highlight how gun violence has continued to affect communities across the United States.