Five years ago today, a gunman took the lives of 14 students and three educators at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, leaving yet another community and dozens of families irreparably shattered, and inspiring young people to stand up for stronger gun laws.
In the years since, more communities have been impacted by gun violence, but we have also made progress on gun safety laws. I brought together Democrats and Republicans to pass the first significant gun safety law in nearly 30 years, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
Today, the U.S. Justice Department is taking another important step to implement that law, awarding more than $231 million for 49 states and territories to create and implement crisis intervention projects like “red flag” programs, mental health and substance use treatment courts, and veterans’ treatment courts. This funding will reduce gun violence and save lives.
I have long championed “red flag” laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders, which could potentially have stopped shooters in Parkland and other tragedies. These laws allow family members, health care providers, school officials, and law enforcement officers to seek a court determination that a person is a danger to themselves or others, and then temporarily prevent that person from accessing a firearm.
Red flag laws, however, only save lives if community members effectively use this tool. Today’s announcement gives states funding to educate the public about extreme risk protection orders and train law enforcement and other officials regarding this intervention.
While today’s announcement will make communities safer, we have more work to do. I once again call 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. We owe it to all those we’ve lost and to all those left behind to grieve to continue to act.