Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Florida Politics
  4. /
  5. The Buzz

Parents of slain Parkland students go to Congress hoping for consensus on school safety, gun reforms

Stand With Parkland members will testify Thursday before a U.S. Senate committee hearing on enhancing school safety.
Tony Montalto, right, father of Gina Rose Montalto, who was killed during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, and April Schentrup, left, who's daughter Carmen was killed also, speak to members of the media during a break in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission Meeting, Thursday, June 7, 2018, in Sunrise, Fla. Montalto is a member of Stand With Parkland, which will speak Thursday before a U.S. Senate committee hearing.
Published Jul. 25
Updated Jul. 25

Some movements born out of last year’s Parkland school shooting are demanding swift bans on military style weapons. They’ve declared war on the National Rifle Association and have called for boycotts of businesses on social media. They’re mobilizing and they’re political.

Then, there’s Stand With Parkland, started by the parents and family members of students and staff killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They’re hoping to win over hearts and minds of lawmakers by pushing for incremental but effective ideas that can get bipartisan support.

“We don’t want to hold out for the home runs,” said Tony Montalto, the organization’s president and father of Gina Montalto, a 14-year-old victim of the Parkland shooting. “We want to hit a bunch of singles and score the same amount of runs.”

On Thursday morning, Stand With Parkland will get its turn in the batters box when members appear before a U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs. Tom Hoyer, who lost his 15-year-old son Luke in the shooting, will speak to the panel of senators during a hearing on enhancing school safety.

RELATED: How the Parkland shooting changed Florida politics

In post-Parkland Florida, young people are still dying from gun violence

Stand With Parkland plans to present ideas for Congress to consider that they believe can win over bipartisan support. It includes more money for school security while limiting access from the public, federal research of school threat assessments and better sharing of information between law enforcement agencies.

It also includes a limited call for modest gun control: allowing law enforcement to confiscate firearms of a person deemed a threat to themselves or others by a judge. Such legislation is often called “Red Flag” laws.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, has introduced a bill with bipartisan cosponsors that would incentivize states to enact Red Flag laws. It hasn’t gained much traction so far.

Hoyer believes Stand With Parkland can move the needle because the organization is willing to work with and sit down with anyone — even the NRA.

“We’re not attacking individuals or organizations. We’re not promoting a left or a right agenda. We’re not about slogans or things like that,” Hoyer, the group’s treasurer, said. “We’re actually pretty good at getting in and talking with Democrats and Republicans. And even though it’s a slow process, we think the majority of the people we’re talking to are trying to help us achieve our goals.”

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is expected to speak at the hearing as well. Gualtieri worked closely with the families of Parkland victims when he crafted recommendations on school safety reform for the legislature to consider this year.

Stand With Parkland supported the package with one notable exception: a provision that allows teachers to carry a firearm in the classroom. The organization strongly opposed the idea, but didn’t stand in the way of it. It ultimately passed and was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“If you stand around and wait for perfect," Montalto said. “You might be waiting a really long time.”

The Senate hearing begins at 9:30 a.m.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

Florida school districts are rejecting armed teachers. Lawmakers say that’s okay.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is now the star cop in Florida politics. Who is he, and how did he get there?

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway was built in Tampa as toll road. Commissioners are divided over an elevated toll road proposed for southern Pasco.
    After frustration about their oversight of three potential new toll roads, the department moved up their timeline for scrutinizing the projects.
  2. Florida Senator Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, was the sponsor of a law that was to go into effect Friday that would have created new requirements for abortion doctors that could have limited the number of clinics. But the U.S. Supreme Court threw out similar Texas restrictions, raising doubt about the fate of Florida's new law. [Scott Keeler | Times]
    The Senate has opposed this bill. That may change in 2020.
  3. Blackwater River Correctional Facility. [Florida Department of Corrections]
    Data provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center shows the state placed more than 14,000 children in isolation while in the care of the juvenile justice department during the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
  4. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a news conference about the Zika virus, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016 in Doral, Fla.The CDC has advised pregnant women to avoid travel to the Miami neighborhood of Wynwood where mosquitoes are apparently transmitting Zika directly to humans. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
    Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said in an interview this week that he supports college athletes getting paid, the latest high-profile lawmaker to break from the NCAA.
  5. Republican Party of Florida chairman Joe Gruters, speaks during the Tampa Bay Times Florida 2020 a candid conversation forum Wednesday in St. Petersburg. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    The chair of the Republican Party of Florida made the claim at a Tampa Bay Times event.
  6. The New York Times newspaper on the shelf at the Citrus County Library Lakes Region at 1511 Druid Rd. on Thursday in Inverness. The Citrus County Commission was looking to eliminate the cost of the New York Times digital subscriptions because they say it is "Fake News." A former Mets GM has stepped up and wants to donate money to the Citrus County Libraries to cover the cost of the subscriptions. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The former general manager of the New York Mets offered money. A flood of emails crashed government servers. And the opinions keep coming.
  7. St. Petersburg voters decided to keep two incumbents on the City Council (from left: Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, Ed Montanari) and elected two new members (Deborah Figgs-Sanders, Robert Blackmon). Times
    Voting and demographic data reveal another layer about the dynamics of the race.
  8. Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Palm Harbor, chairs the House PreK-12 Appropriations committee. News Service of Florida
    House PreK-12 Appropriations chair Chris Latvala discusses leadership’s education priorities and how they hope to get there.
  9. Amanda Williams Cruce and Deena Ruth Cruce currently have five foster kids in their home. Here are four on a restaurant outing. MIAMI HERALD
    A plan to keep the existing funding in place could involve sending some of the state’s most troubled children from other regions, including Hillsborough County, to a facility in South Florida for more...
  10. Hernando County Government Center
    Home builder gets Spring Hill property for $10,000 an acre.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement