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Parkland Survivors, Families Keep Up Fight for Gun Reform

WASHINGTON — One year later, survivors and families of those lost in the mass-shooting in Parkland, Florida are still calling for more restrictive gun laws and aggressive school safety standards.

“It’s very hard to understand that this happened. A year is like nothing and at the same time it’s a lot,” said Patricia Oliver.

It’s been 365 days since Oliver learned her son Joaquin was gunned down in the hallway of his high school — he was one of the 17 killed inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Oliver says she’s coping the only way she knows how.

“We’ve got to do something,” Oliver said.

Oliver is not alone — survivors and families who have lost loved ones have made names for themselves on Capitol Hill over the last year. They’ve been sharing their stories, participating in roundtables, marching on Washington and testifying before Congress.

“It has completely changed my life,” said Aalayah Eastmond, a survivor of the shooting.

Eastmond hid beneath a dead classmate to shield herself from the shooter’s bullets. She says she’s disappointed federal lawmakers have not made any changes to gun laws.

“It’s extremely frustrating because this is something that happens on a day to day basis. It seems like it’s been ignored for decades,” Eastmond said.

However, House Democrats are working to change that. Just last week, the House held its first hearing on gun violence in nearly a decade. Congressman Ted Deutch (D-Florida) 22nd District acknowledges it’s a small step forward.

“That debate never would have happened had it not been for the advocacy of so many people across the country starting with South Florida,” Deutch said.

Those bills face an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled Senate. Instead of imposing stricter gun laws, Florida’s Senators are co-sponsoring legislation that aims to mitigate threats of violence on school campuses. The bill is called the EAGLES Act, named after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Mascot, which enlists the Secret Service program to identify potential threats of violence.

“I’m focused on legislation that actually keeps our schools safe,” said Sen. Rick Scott (R-Florida), in a news conference with reporters in Washington on Wednesday.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) took to the Senate floor on Thursday to pay tribute to the 17 lost one-year ago.

“Several of the parents have publicly described what happened a year ago today as the most avoidable mass murder in American history,” Sen. Rubio said.

That’s why survivors and the families say they’re continuing their fight, giving a voice to the loved ones they lost.

“The pain doesn’t go away. You miss every single thing about Joaquin. We miss him in every single aspect,” Oliver said.

The House Judiciary Committee just approved a pair of bills that would expand federal background checks for firearms purchases. Legislation now heads to the House floor for a vote.

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