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Florida State Senator Discusses New Report On Mass Shooting Response, Prevention


It's the sixth anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. 20 children and six teachers were killed. This year, Everytown for Gun Safety says there have been 89 incidents of gunfire at schools and colleges. Of course, one of them was at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. We should tell you that this conversation you're about to hear may be too disturbing for some listeners.


This week, a state commission that's looked at nearly every aspect of that shooting released its draft findings. It found the school and the sheriff's office could have done much more to prevent the deaths of those 17 students and staff. To talk about the report and what's next, we're joined by one of the commissioners. Florida state Senator Lauren Book is a Democrat. She represents parts of Parkland. Welcome to the program.

LAUREN BOOK: Hey, thank you so much for having me.

CORNISH: Now, I understand your background is that - in education. You were a teacher once, right?

BOOK: Yes, I was a kindergarten teacher when I graduated college. And so this has hit very, very close to home.

CORNISH: So there are many, many recommendations out of this commission report. Can you talk about two or three?

BOOK: Absolutely. One of the recommendations is that there's a statewide standard policy as it relates to Code Red or active assailant drills in schools across the state and, from a law enforcement perspective, that there is a policy related to active assailants and how you engage those things that occur.

CORNISH: This report also makes the recommendation to let teachers and other school personnel carry guns if they want to. And you were originally against this idea. So what's changed?

BOOK: Well, after looking at the totality of all of the facts of what happened, the shooting that occurred on February 14 was three minutes and about 30 seconds. Within the first 69 seconds, 22 students and faculty were shot or killed. That wasn't until the first law enforcement officer was told to head to Stoneman Douglas.

CORNISH: Is this the thing that changed your mind? Because, as we mentioned, you're a former kindergarten teacher.

BOOK: So yes, it is, actually. When I had to listen to those 911 calls and after watching all of the surveillance video, listening to how helpless those students were hiding under desks - some of them shot sitting at their desks - they were trapped, and nobody was coming. Now, that doesn't mean that I think that everyone should be a guardian.

CORNISH: And this allows personnel to carry a weapon.

BOOK: Yes. And so, you know, these are sworn law enforcement officers. And Mrs. Book, who (laughter) started teaching in kindergarten, would not have been a guardian. I would not have wanted to be a guardian. You know, these are trained. And like I said, they are educators but become sworn law enforcement officers. They get psychological evaluations. They have over 140 hours of comprehensive firearm safety training.

I think that it's something that I do believe is extreme. I do. I think it's an extreme measure. But we are in extreme times.

CORNISH: The draft report does not mention any recommendation around gun policy reform. While this wasn't a charge of the commission, is that ignoring a big slice of the issue?

BOOK: Well, the commission is convened for several years. And this was the first report. And part of our responsibility was to provide a timeline of the events and things that went wrong. Because this happened, during our legislative session, the last two weeks, we pushed forward for a bill that did move forward more gun control than ever happened in 20 years. And I have pushed very hard to ensure that that is an issue that is addressed by the commission.

CORNISH: Do you get the sense there is an appetite to pass any of the recommendations in the report? So many times, a commission report ends up getting tossed in a drawer.

BOOK: I do. And part of the reason I feel so strongly about my position on the commission is to make our legislature continue to make these things a priority, to ensure that this doesn't become an old dusty report on a shelf. Right? We want to make sure that people are learning from the things that happened so that these things never happen again.

CORNISH: State Senator Lauren Book is one of the members in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission. Thank you for explaining it to us.

BOOK: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.