Many of the Parkland victims’ families have become activists for school safety, gun control, or both issues.
Manuel Oliver favors sweeping gun reform measures, Tony Montalto takes a middle-ground approach, and Ryan Petty thinks most gun control ideas infringe on Second Amendment rights while accomplishing nothing.
All three fathers lost children in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, and they are united in their horror about what happened in Boulder.
“Unfortunately, know exactly what they’re going through,” Petty said in a Zoom interview.
“Our family is shaken, again, and we know, really, that other families are feeling our same pain,” Montalto said.
“I’m very sad about the families that lost their members yesterday, really, because I know exactly how they’re feeling, I know exactly how these desperate moments are, I hate that,” said Oliver, also in a Zoom interview.
Every time a mass shooting happens, the Parkland victims’ families are transported back to 2018.
“The same B-S, thoughts and prayers and stay with the families and thank God there was a hero because it could’ve been worse, I’m sick of that,” Oliver said, his voice rising in anger.
Oliver has become known nationwide as a passionate gun reform activist, in memory and tribute to his son, Joaquin.
“My son is dead but I’m not, so now you’re dealing with me and a lot of parents like me," Oliver said. "I’m not waiting anymore, this is it, this is war, my friend."
He said if he could, he would ban assault rifles immediately and create universal, national background checks.
“It’s been working in other places, why is it that we cannot do the same that England did, United Kingdom, that Australia did or New Zealand, why?” Oliver asked. “Because of the gun lobby and the gun industry? Is that the answer? Alright, so then we need to fight them.”
“I don’t think any of them would be effective, none of them would’ve stopped what happened in Atlanta or Colorado,” Petty said, speaking about the reforms Oliver is advocating.
Petty lost his daughter, Alaina, at MSD. He says banning assault rifles is pointless when the vast majority of gun violence involves handguns. Petty says background checks are already mandatory at federally-licensed firearms dealers. He favors red flag laws like the one passed in Florida a few months after the Parkland mass shooting.
“The red flag law gives law enforcement the tools they didn’t have prior to Parkland to be able to separate an individual from whatever weapons they may have,” Petty said.
Red flag laws allow police to temporarily take a person’s guns away if that person is deemed a threat to the community.
“We need to get past the extremist arguments and come together to pass laws that will make our schools and our communities safer,” Montalto said.
After he lost his daughter, Gina, at MSD, Montalto co-founded Stand With Parkland, a group dedicated to school safety, improving mental health screening and support programs, and what are often called “common sense” gun reforms, including red flag laws, but Stand With Parkland does not take a stand on banning assault rifles.
“We want to keep firearms in the hands of responsible owners, we believe responsible ownership starts when you are able to pass a background check,” Montalto said.
Universal background checks would close the so-called gun show loophole. Recent polls show between 80 and 90 percent of the American public supports background checks and President Joe Biden called for them Tuesday.
Petty pointed out, however, that the Parkland shooter passed his background check.