Reflecting on mental health one year after Parkland school shooting

Emma Rothenberg, left to right, with her mother Cheryl Rothenberg and sister, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Sophia Rothenberg embrace at a memorial marking the one-year anniversary of a mass shooting at the school in Parkland, Fla., on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald via AP)

WASHINGTON--Today marks one year since the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida that took the lives of 17 people.

In Washington, there are a wide range of views on the role of lawmakers in this fight to keep our schools and our citizens safe.

Long before committing the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, suspect Nikolas Cruz had been involved in school fights, had a long list of visits to his home by police, and also a visit by the Florida Department of Children and Family Services. A report shows Nikolas Cruz was called “a vulnerable adult due to mental illness” -- with depression— “who planned to buy a gun.”

“School shooters don’t just snap. This is not impulsive behavior. Instead they plan out their school shootings in advance and they typically tell people about these violent plans,” said Dr. Marisa Randazzo, Former Chief psychologist, U.S. Secret Service.

Dr. Randazzo authored what is considered to be the largest federal study on school shootings in America and says future shootings can be prevented with better threat assessment training--especially for teachers and students.

“Students are far more likely to know when they have a friend who is struggling. So many of our school shootings in this country really look like acts of suicide with horrific collateral damage.”

Anticipating these violent acts is often a top concern on Capitol Hill--with a focus on better information sharing about people with mental illness.

“Our background check system is built to include individuals who we think are at exceedingly high risk. We have to make sure before we go to expanding anything, we need to make sure the system we have works now,” said Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.

“In many cases we’re dealing with individual who has undiagnosed mental illnesses and yet their close family members aren’t aware that something is desperately wrong,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Democrats have sponsored numerous bills on everything from expanded background checks to high capacity magazine bans.

“Maybe now we’ll do more than observing moments of silence on capitol hill maybe now we’ll act.” Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif.

But all the talk on Capitol Hill has resulted in very little action and the shared desire to instill change consistently halted by a difference in opinions in how to get there.

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