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Broward sheriff says deputies will carry rifles at schools after ‘pure evil’ of Parkland massacre

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., traveled to their state capital on Feb. 20 to ask lawmakers for gun reform. (Video: Alice Li, Whitney Shefte, Michael Landsberg/The Washington Post, Photo: Charlotte Kesl/The Washington Post)

A week after a gunman killed 17 people at a school in Parkland, Fla., Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said his office would begin deploying deputies carrying rifles on school grounds “from this point forward.”

“We need to be able to defeat any threat that comes onto campus,” Israel said, adding that the idea was supported by the superintendent of Broward County Public Schools.

Israel’s announcement came on the same day that scores of students who survived the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School marched on Tallahassee, the state capital, to demand changes from lawmakers. Others went to the White House in Washington for a listening session with President Trump, who suggested that arming teachers or deploying additional armed guards could be a way to secure schools.

The shooting sparked a wave of furious activism and calls for change from survivors and their relatives, a stark difference from the reaction after previous mass shootings. These students have described their efforts as a  necessary push for gun control after the latest shooting rampage to cut down Americans in a public place, following attacks at churches, concerts, movie theaters and other schools.

Students take charge of gun-safety movement with some help from existing groups

Speaking about the same time as the White House event, Israel described schools as soft targets that need to be “fortified” against possible attackers. He said that among the steps they take, campuses looking to increase safety should reconsider how many school resource officers they employ.

“Certainly every school in the nation should have a school resource deputy. There should be no school that shouldn’t have at least one,” Israel said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Stoneman Douglas High School had an armed resource officer on campus, but he did not encounter the shooter during the five-minute rampage last week, Israel said. That deputy’s actions will be “looked at and scrutinized” as part of the investigation into what happened and how authorities responded, Israel said.

But Israel also said that more armed officers alone would not solve the problems revealed by the Douglas shooting.

“We also need to talk about sensible gun control,” he said. “There are certain people in this country that should not be ever allowed to have a gun.”

Israel said that, ultimately, to make sure students are protected, legislators need to enact changes.

“Years ago, I would’ve said that the safety of our children is dependent upon law enforcement,” he said. “And we still are necessary to protect our kids. But now we’re at a point in American history where if we’re going to be safe, it’s up to the lawmakers. Laws have to be changed. We can’t do the same old, same old.”

Florida high school students demand change to gun laws at boisterous rally

The students transformed into activists have been a powerful voice in media interviews and on social media. They have suggested that they had to act to prevent another attack like the one they survived. Rebecca Boldrick, an elementary school teacher and mother of David Hogg, one of these students, praised him and his fellow students for doing the work she said was forced on them.

“This is what’s meant by grass roots,” Boldrick said she told her son. “You guys didn’t want this, you still don’t want it, but you can’t sit back and do nothing.”

Stoneman Douglas has remained closed since the shooting as part of the investigation, and school officials say it should reopen to teachers on Friday and to students next week. Some students have said they will not return until changes are enacted. Students across the country on Wednesday walked out of schools, including at numerous campuses in South Florida, to protest gun violence.

Asked Wednesday whether authorities have identified a motive for the shooting rampage a week after the attack, Israel said: “Pure evil. Pure evil.”

Further reading: 

‘Too many bad memories’: What happens to the sites of mass shootings?