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Sen. Orrin Hatch, Parkland shooting victim father tout school violence prevention bill

FILE - This Feb. 14, 2018 file photo shows students being evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a former student opened fire on the campus.
FILE - This Feb. 14, 2018 file photo shows students being evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a former student opened fire on the campus.
Mike Stocker, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP

SALT LAKE CITY — Valentine's Day started like any other day for Ryan Petty.

The Parkland, Florida, husband and father rushed off to an early meeting without saying goodbye to his 14-year-old daughter, Alaina. He never thought she would the victim of a school shooting. He didn't think something like that would happen in his town.

"I didn’t get a chance that morning to say goodbye to my daughter, but I'm here today to make sure that I’m one of the last fathers that ever has to bury their daughter or son or loved one from a senseless act of violence in a school," he said Tuesday at a press conference in Washington, D.C.

Petty, a BYU graduate who was in Utah last week touting a kindness movement, stood alongside Republican and Democratic senators to make a case for the proposed Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing School Violence Act or STOP School Violence Act. He said he wishes the law had been in place a month ago.

"The shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (High School) was the worst kept secret in Parkland. The school officials knew. Law enforcement knew. They didn’t do anything about it," he said.

The legislation calls for the Department of Justice to offer grants for training students, educators and police to identify signs of violence and intervene to prevent people from hurting themselves and others.

In addition, the bill funds technology and equipment to improve school security, such as development of anonymous reporting systems. It also provides money to assess school threats and crisis intervention teams.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and a bipartisan group of senators introduced the legislation last month in the wake of the Parkland school shooting Feb. 14 that left 17 people dead and 17 injured.

Hatch said the bill would address flaws in the system that would prevent violence in schools.

"It’s a historic investment of a billion dollars in school safety infrastructure, prevention training for the entire school ecosystem, the formation of crisis intervention teams with mental health professionals, and better coordination between schools and law enforcement," he said.

Both of Florida's senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, back the measure.

"We have had our fill of it in Florida," Nelson said, listing mass shootings at an Orlando nightclub, the Fort Lauderdale airport and the Parkland school the past two years.

Rubio said it's time to move forward and pass the bill that has growing bipartisan support.

"Identifying these people before they act is the most important thing we can do and the most effective thing we can do, and it’s something we all agree on," he said.

Rubio and Nelson has also proposed legislation to motivate states to create gun violence restraining orders. It would use grants allowing police or family members to get a court order to block an individual deemed dangerous from getting a gun.

Utah lawmakers earlier this month rejected an extreme risk protective order bill that would have allowed police to remove guns from a person who has a propensity for violent or emotionally unstable behavior.

Petty said proposed federal school safety legislation would bring the change needed to stop campus shootings.

"We need to identify these troubled youths early and we need to interdict before they turn violent," he said.

Petty and other families who lost love ones banded together to urge Florida lawmakers to raise the age to buy all firearms to 21 and impose a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases. Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill last week.