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The grief and mourning continue for the 17 students and staff killed on the afternoon of Feb. 14 during a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. But something else is happening among the anguish of the interrupted lives of the victims and survivors. Out of the agony, activism has emerged and students from across South Florida are speaking out together asking for stricter gun controls. Here's a list of grief counseling resources available for the community.

MSD Commission Unanimously Approves Final Recommendations, Submits To State Authorities

David Santiago
Miami Herald
Max Schachter, father of shooting victim Alex Schachter, told the commission he believes the report is a good product - but there are more topics he is hoping to address in 2019.

Members of The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission voted unanimously Wednesday morning to send their first report to the state authorities in Tallahassee, in hopes that it increases the pace of reforms recommended to prevent another school shooting in Florida. 

The state commission, created by the legislature through the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, has been compiling recommendations since April to implement in all Florida elementary, middle, and high schools in the wake of the massacre in Parkland.

"It is meaningful, and it will be meaningful. It will make a difference as far as the kids in Florida are concerned," Pinellas County Sheriff and commission Chair Bob Gualtieri said on a public conference call Wednesday morning.

Copies of the final report are expected to be filed to Governor Rick Scott's office, to Governor-Elect Ron DeSantis, and to the Florida Senate President and Speaker of the House by end of business Wednesday.

It incorporates all of the approved recommendations from the commission's meeting last month, held in Tallahassee. Some of the largest line items in the more than 400-page report include: arming teachers, enhancing school surveillance technology, adding hardening to schools, and requiring school districts to create and enforce Code Red and emergency policies.

Gualtieri reiterated his argument for allowing more school staff members, including teachers, to carry weapons, during a news conference in Largo Wednesday afternoon.

After the commission's eight-month investigation, he said there's one thing that "gnaws at" him: Confessed killer Nikolas Cruz reloaded his gun five times during the massacre.

Those pauses were opportunities when someone could have stopped the bloodshed, he said — like slain security guard Chris Hixon, who was killed after confronting Cruz unarmed.

"If Chris Hixon was allowed to carry a gun, Chris Hixon would have shot and killed Nikolas Cruz — or at least tried," Gualtieri said.

Hixon's wife, Debra, has said her husband would have been a perfect person to carry a gun on campus — because he was qualified and he wasn't a teacher. She has spoken out against teachers being allowed to have weapons.

The report also makes recommendations for the Broward County Sheriff's Office, including to make sure all School Resource Officers at schools are highly supervised and have access to students' disciplinary and educational records. Commissioners also recommend that Florida Sheriff's Departments have one unified active assailant policy.

Read More: Overview Of Early Recommendations From State Commission Investigating Parkland Shooting

Since the recommendations were discussed publicly in December, Gualtieri told commissioners that nothing substantive has been changed in the final report.

Parents on the commission expressed their thanks for everyone that helped make the report happen, less than a year after the shooting occurred.

Max Schachter, who lost his son Alex in the shooting at Stoneman Douglas, told commissioners he thinks the report is a good start, but he has a lot more he wants to accomplish in the new year. In previous meetings, Schachter has asked the commission to address the topic of gun control. 

"There are still issues I want to go into more detail," he said.

The commission still has until 2023 to meet and make other recommendations for the Florida legislature.

"Our work is still not done, there's a lot to do ahead of us," Gualtieri said.

It is likely that its first in-person meeting to discuss new business will be in March, according to commissioners.

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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