Ryan Petty lost his 14-year-old daughter, Alaina Petty, in the Parkland mass shooting on Valentine’s Day more than one month ago, but although he expressed support for the groundswell of students across the country marching for stricter gun control laws on Saturday, Petty will not be participating in the rallies.
“I appreciate the passion and the energy that’s being displayed today. And I considered participating,” Petty told FOX Business’ Neil Cavuto during an interview on Saturday. “But, my concern from the beginning has been, after every mass shooting, we inevitably head down the path of an argument over the Second Amendment and gun control. And it’s a legislative road to nowhere.”
Instead, Petty favors a middle-ground approach to ending violence in schools. He’s been talking with Florida legislators, including Republican Gov. Rick Scott, to find common ground and a bipartisan agenda that both sides of the aisle could agree upon.
And in early March, Scott signed into law the first gun control legislation -- known as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act -- that raised the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 from 18, appropriated more than $69 million for mental health assistance in schools, and banned the sale or possession of bump fire stocks. It also granted law enforcement greater power to seize weapons and ammunition from those deemed mentally unfit and allocated increased funding for armed school resource officers.
“I’m happy to say in three weeks we got the bill passed in record time, including what some would call new gun control measures, for the first time in 22 years in the state of Florida,” Petty said.
The gun control debate in the U.S. has been revitalized since suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz, 19, allegedly opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, killing 17 people with an AR-15 style rifle that he’d legally obtained. Cruz, a former student who was expelled from the school, was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and is being held without bail. The motive behind the shooting remains unclear.
After the shooting, reports emerge that an armed school resource deputy remained outside of the building as the massacre unfolded inside and never fired his weapon. Scott Peterson, an ex-Broward County Sheriff’s Office deputy, has since resigned.
The FBI also came under fire after the agency reported it had ignored investigative protocol regarding a tip from a person close to Cruz who warned that he was a gun owner, desired to kill people, displayed erratic behavior, posted disturbing social media posts and had the potential to conduct a school shooting.
When Petty first heard about the lapse in law enforcement, he was heartbroken, he said. Now, every morning, the time when he and his wife typically got his daughter off to school and spent time with her, he’s reminded of how much he misses his daughter and what an integral part of their family she was.“The most sacred trust we have as parents is protecting our children,” he said. “And we sent Alaina to school that day, to a school we thought was safe with a school resource officer present. We thought she would come home that evening, and she didn’t.”