Gun control reform is coming. At least, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel is hoping it is.
The top law enforcement officer in the Florida county where a gunman on Wednesday killed 17 adults and students with an AR-15 rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School warned politicians that gun policy needs to change during a vigil the following night.
“If you’re an elected official, and you want to keep things the way they are ― if you want to keep gun laws as they are now ― you will not get re-elected in Broward County,” Israel told a crowd that erupted in cheers.
Thousands attended the Parkland, Florida, vigil held at an amphitheater lit by candles and dotted with 17 four-foot-high angels ― one for each of the victims.
Community leaders spoke to the crowd as parents and students comforted each other, at one point leading a chant: “No more guns!”
Since the tragedy, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas have been some of the most vocal critics of U.S. gun policy, pleading for reform on national television. Florida has some of the nation’s weakest gun laws.
At a news conference earlier on Thursday, Israel urged lawmakers to give police and mental health professionals more power to involuntarily detain people who post disturbing content on social media. The sheriff said accused gunman Nikolas Cruz posted “very disturbing” images prior to the rampage.
“We need to have the power to take that person and bring them before mental health professionals at that particular time, involuntarily, and have them examined,” he said. “People are going to be rightfully concerned about their rights ― as am I. But what about these students? What about the rights of young kids who go to schools?”
Israel said he wished officials had the legal authority to act “if they see something on social media, if they see graphic pictures of rifles and blood and gore and guns and bombs, if they see something, horrific language, if they see a person talking about ‘I want to grow up to be a serial killer.’”
In a familiar theme, top Democrats have called for policy change in the wake of the shooting while top Republicans ― including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) ― have argued against “politicizing” the tragedy.