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Parents of Parkland victims call for national school safety standards

WASHINGTON — Parents of students who died in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting are calling for a range of steps to prevent gun violence, including measures to “harden” schools to minimize attacks and to identify potential shooters before they act.

Max Schachter, whose son Alex was among 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February, urged national standards for school safety that include bulletproof glass and technology that allows teachers and other officials to communicate during a crisis.

Schachter said he wasn’t proposing that “every school fence be 10 feet high” but said practical steps can be taken to make schools safer and prevent future tragedies.

Speaking Wednesday at a Capitol forum led by Florida’s two U.S. senators, Schachter said airports and other public buildings must meet national standards, and he wondered why schools don’t have to.

“We have failed to protect our children,” he said.

Schachter and other parents of children killed in school shootings spoke at the two-hour forum along with law enforcement officials, educators and other experts.

Schachter, who created a foundation called Safe Schools for Alex, said his advocacy work since his 14-year-old son’s death has been “sobering, depressing and sometimes hopeful.”

READ MORE: Parkland students pour their feelings into poetry

Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina died in the same room as Alex Schachter, focused on threat prevention, saying schools and law enforcement need clear guidelines to help identify potential school shooters before they act.

Petty urged a comprehensive approach that includes students and casts “a very wide net to identify the potential attackers before they attack.”

Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson organized the forum, which focused on prevention of school violence, intervention and school safety and security.

“We want to see what works best,” said Rubio, a Republican.

Nelson, a Democrat, said lawmakers need to get to the root cause of gun violence. He called for comprehensive background checks for gun purchasers to “catch all the nuances that you’d miss with just a criminal background check.”

Nelson also called for a ban on semi-automatic weapons such as AR-15 and AK-47 rifles.

“They are not for hunting,” he said. “They are for killing.”

Nelson, Rubio and other lawmakers promoted the Stop School Violence Act, which was approved last month as part of a comprehensive budget deal passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump. The budget deal includes nearly $2 billion to strengthen school safety through grants for training, security measures and treatment for the mentally ill.

Rubio and Nelson also have introduced a separate bill to encourage states to adopt so-called red-flag laws that allow officials to keep guns away from people who show warning signs of violence. The Senate bill would essentially pay states to implement such laws, Rubio said

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