By David Smiley
The families of all but two of the 17 teens and faculty killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland have formed an advocacy organization pushing for school safety, mental health reform and gun control.
Together, the families on Thursday launched Stand With Parkland, described as a nonpartisan national organization. They said the goal is to advocate "for practical public safety reforms focused on the safety of our children and staff at school, improved mental health support, and responsible firearms ownership."
"The Parkland families are inspired by the love and support of millions of people who have reached out, the courageousness of the surviving students who have spoken out, and the millions who have marched," the group said in a press release. "As the families who have suffered the loss of a loved one in this tragedy, we are banding together to do something about violence in our schools so that no other families have to experience the pain that we have had to endure. "
Fifteen families have joined the effort.
Involved parents whose children were killed in the shooting include Tony and Jen Montalto, Tom and Gena Hoyer, Phil and April Schentrup, Ryan and Kelly Petty, and Max Schachter and Caryn DeSacia. Fred and Jen Guttenberg, Ilan and Lori Alhadeff, Manuel and Patricia Oliver, Mitch and Annika Dworet, Vinnie and Anne Ramsay, Damian and Denise Loughran, and Hui Ying Zhang and Kong Feng Wang are also a part of the group. All of these parents had their children shot and killed at the school on Feb. 14, 2018.
Linda Biegel Schulman, Debbie Hixon, and Melissa Feis are involved as the families of slain faculty.
The organization appears to be the largest comprehensive effort by the families since their advocacy pushed sweeping school safety and mental health legislation in Florida that included firearm restrictions. In this instance, they say their focus is on legislation in Washington.
"Our objective is to understand the problem and develop policies that address the issue," the group said. "We will be a national organization, representing the interests of American families, working with teachers, law enforcement and lawmakers to make sure those solutions are implemented in our schools."
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