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Parkland parent on Texas shooting: 'I'm sick of hearing things like this'

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Posted at 6:59 AM, May 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-25 15:39:32-04

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Tuesday's shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas surpassed the number of fatalities in the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., becoming the second-deadliest mass shooting at a K-12 school in U.S. history.

In the hours after the shooting in Texas, Tony Montalto spoke about the pain of losing a child in this manner. He lost his daughter Gina in the Parkland shooting.

"We know what those other families are going through. We feel for them and we know that..." Montalto trails off with a labored sigh.

If you speak with him or anyone who has lost a loved one or survived a mass shooting, they will tell you it's not about the number — one loss is unacceptable.

That's why Montalto and other parents are not slowing down in their push to make schools in Florida and across the country safer.

This father, speaking with us virtually with a portrait of Gina over his shoulder, has the careworn face of a man bearing a heavy burden - speaking once more after a shooting within the halls of a public school.

"I'm sick of hearing things like this today," he said.

Montalto works as the president of Stand With Parkland. In the years since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the group, which is made up of families who lost loved ones that day, has pushed for changes to make Florida schools safer.

"We have seen some form of school safety legislation passed in each session for the last five years," Montalto said.

A crusade for change

In late 2018, mere months after the Parkland shooting, Stand with Parkland worked with state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to pass the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

The pages of legislation translate to a direct impact on every child attending school in Florida, including more money for school campus security and mental health screenings.

The one that stands out most to Montalto is the adoption of "red flag laws" when it comes to gun ownership. Under that law, if someone is deemed a threat to themselves or others, their access to firearms is removed for up to a year.

"Here in Florida, it's been used over 5,000 times since it was passed," Montalto said. "It has saved lives. And people are still allowed to hunt; they're still allowed to target-shoot.

"Nobody else's rights have been infringed upon. It's been a very effective law."

In 2019, the state created the Office of Safe Schools. The following year, "Alyssa's Law" passed, requiring all schools to have a mobile alert system with a direct line to emergency services.

The most recent legislation signed into Florida law is the "Parents' Need to Know" initiative. It requires school administrators to notify parents when there is a threat to a school.

This year, the state passed another safety act that adds provisions to the Douglas Public Safety Act. House Bill 1421 is waiting to be signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Stand With Parkland is also pushing for similar changes at the national level, including red flag laws.

Montalto says this is just the beginning of what has become a lifelong mission to honor his late daughter.

"As a dad, it's very painful," he said. "Not only did we lose our beautiful daughter, but we have a son and I worry about him at school every day.

"Parents: There's pragmatic things that we can agree on, pull us together. Please find a way to come together to keep our students and teachers safe."

Click here to learn more about Gina Montalto and her Memorial Foundation.

This article was written by Nadeen Yanes for WFTX.