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"If They're Not Fixing It, We've Got To Vote Them Out": Gun Violence Debate Continues

Seventeen people were killed at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday.
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Seventeen people were killed at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday.

The mother of a child who was killed in the 2012 Newtown school shooting says the community of Parkland, Florida will need support and resources in the wake of the tragedy there, and she says if people want change in the wake of Parkland, they will have to take action.

Nelba Márquez-Greene lost her daughter Ana Grace at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. She says she felt anger and outrage as the news unfolded Wednesday.

“But unfortunately, for me, for my family, it’s a little bit different. We also know after the shock, anger, outrage or even during it, what really happens behind the scenes," she told Connecticut Public Radio's Where We Live. "So my heart was just really with those families, knowing exactly what these minutes, and hours, and days, and weeks, and even years will be like after.”

Márquez-Greene, with her husband Jimmy Greene, founded the Ana Grace Project. It provides support to children in schools and communities that have been traumatized by violence.

Márquez-Greene said the rising tide of gun violence will not change until enough people take action.

"Folks need to look in the mirror," she said. "Folks need to ask themselves, what they need to do. Are they making the calls? Are they voting? Are they finding out if their representatives in their states are taking money from the NRA? This can’t be a thing you put on victims to fix for you, or even our elected officials to fix for us. If they’re not fixing it we’ve got to vote them out."

The Parkland shooting is now the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook more than five years ago.

School safety measures look likely to be debated once again in the wake of the shooting, in which 17 people died.

Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School had security measures in place, and had undergone active shooter drills. But the gunman, a former student at the school, was able to gain access, and apparently trigger a fire alarm to bring students into the halls.

Fran Rabinowitz is director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents. She said there is no way to fully guarantee safety at school.

"As educators, caregivers, we want to say - your child in our hands is completely safe - and the truth of the matter is that when there is an active shooter, you can take measures, you can train your staff and you can do everything possible, and you can save lives, but you cannot guarantee 100 percent safety," she said.

Many districts in Connecticut used state funds to implement new safety measures, including bullet proof glass and more effective locks, but standards vary widely throughout the state.

Rabinowitz said beyond security, schools need more resources to address mental health challenges.

"The mental health services in our country, and right now in our schools are not adequate for the level of mental problems that we're seeing in our youth," she said.

Paul Gionfriddo, the CEO of Mental Health America said policy makers must share the blame for failures of the education system to identify and act on troubled children.

"If there's culpability here, the people who are culpable are the people who have controlled the purse strings for years and years," he said. "They've had their heads in the sand for a very long time about these things."

Harriet Jones is Managing Editor for Connecticut Public Radio, overseeing the coverage of daily stories from our busy newsroom.

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