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Draft Recommendations Released From State Commission Investigating Parkland Shooting


It's been 10 months since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. This week, a state panel concluded its assessment of what led to the shooting that killed 17 people. The panel released a draft of its report. And we were noticing that different media outlets picked up on very different conclusions. The New York Times headline reads, slow police response and chaos contributed to Parkland massacre. The Washington Post said, commission faults sheriff's deputies, details school security lapses. And the Sun-Sentinel said, quote, teachers need guns. Schools need security. The final report is to go to the governor by the end of the year.

Now, we know that this shooting created more than a report. It created a movement. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas went on to organize the March for Our Lives, calling for an end to gun violence. So we thought it was important to hear how one of those organizers is interpreting the findings from the safety commission. Joining us now is Matt Deitsch. He's chief strategist for March for Our Lives. He graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas a few years ago. Both his brother and sister were at the school the day of the shooting but were not injured. And Matt Deitsch is with us now.

Thank you so much for talking with us.

MATT DEITSCH: Thank you so much for having me and continuing this really important conversation.

MARTIN: And the first thing I do want to ask is - well, there's two different questions. On a personal level, do you and your family members and friends who've been so profoundly affected by this - do you feel like you're healing? And do you feel like, as a movement, that you're getting somewhere?

DEITSCH: OK. So do I feel like I'm healing? That's a really hard question because this trauma and this pain - it builds. Because every single day while we were on tour this summer and every day that we do any of these public events, we meet new people who are in the same club, right? Like, they - they've gone through this trauma. They've lost their daughters from stalkers that were able to buy guns legally. They lost their mothers because it was easier to get a gun than a mental health check. These are people who are all part of this failed system. And, every day, I pick up new stories and I hear new stories and connect with more people.

So it's not healing - it's understanding the reality of gun violence in America and understanding our part in what we can do to stop it. And we've had incredible successes this year. I mean, we defeated (laughter) a ton of NRA-backed candidates, and we helped pass over 60 state laws. And I think this Congress - now that we have more gun sense candidates in power, we'll see something like universal background checks actually get voted on. And I think that's a huge step forward for not only our movement but for Americans everywhere.

MARTIN: So let's move to the safety commission report. What are your takeaways from it?

DEITSCH: Well, I think we can learn a lot about how preventable the shooting that happened in Parkland was. But I think that this is just an overall encompassing of a total systemic failure. I mean, our schools are heavily under-resourced not just from a police or resource officer standpoint but teachers and social workers. We aren't looking out for the best interests of our students. And I would really appreciate if we invested more time and effort and resources into what it would actually take to ensure our students' success. I think...

MARTIN: Yeah, that was one of the commission's recommendations, is that teachers - some teachers who go through the relevant background checks and training should be able to carry firearms. What do you all think about that?

DEITSCH: I think our resources are better off equipping more social services and violence intervention programs than adding firearms to the situation because I feel it's really strange for people to come forward and say guns aren't part of the equation for this and then try to add more guns.

MARTIN: So when it comes to school security, it seems that this report was very heavily weighted on the specific actions of the specific school resource officers. Is there anything that you found in their report that you feel should be implemented?

DEITSCH: I think a lot of it comes back to looking at the entire system and looking at what do we actually value in this. And if we're looking at the individual failures of people, I think those people need to definitely be held accountable. And the people that put the wrong people in those positions need to be held accountable. But, at the same time, we have to look at the whole big picture. And so I think a lot of it just comes back to having standards on how we deal with the public health of students in general and not look at it as one person failed. Because those people need to be held accountable, but it's not - that's not how you fix that.

And so I think a lot of it just goes back to social workers and schools and actually creating a culture that cares about our teachers and values our students' lives and doesn't help fuel the school to prison pipeline. Because I felt like a lot of the suggestions coming out of the different commissions really lack the intersectionality of understanding what adding more resource officers actually does to our students' health and safety. And I feel like we could learn a lot more by talking to more teachers and students and less just law enforcement.

MARTIN: That's Matt Deitsch. He attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He's now chief strategist for March for Our Lives, which advocates for gun safety laws.

Mr. Deitsch, thank you so much for talking to us.

DEITSCH: No, thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.