TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tony Montalto can relate to the pain families of the victims are feeling after the mass shooting Wednesday at two locations in Lewiston, Maine.
“We know the tragic effects that having a loved one suddenly taken from your family has,” he said.
Every time there’s another mass shooting in America, it immediately brings Montalto back to Valentine’s Day 2018.
“I remember that Parkland was the safest city in this state two days before the shooting at the high school that took my beautiful daughter Gina, her 13 classmates and her three teachers,” Montalto said. “It is true it can happen anywhere.”
Montalto, who is also the president of Stand With Parkland, said he applauds Florida lawmakers for finding bi-partisan solutions to make communities safer since one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.
“The idea is to bring people together to find solutions and to try and get people help before they resort to violence,” he said.
The Stand With Parkland organization formed after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Its goals are advocating for school safety reforms, improved mental health support and responsible gun ownership.
Montalto told News Channel 8 that Florida’s extreme risk protection law is one positive change after Parkland.
“If you are deemed a threat to yourself or others, you should not have access to weapons,” Montalto said.
Florida’s “Red Flag” law allows family members or friends to ask a judge to temporarily restrict a person’s access to guns.
Under Maine’s “Yellow Flag” law, only police can make that request, but first they need a medical professional to deem that person a threat to themselves or others.
“We don’t know why it didn’t work here in Maine,” Montalto said. “But what we need to do is encourage people when they see troubling things to make sure it’s reported, not just to social media companies. You have to report it to local police to have it investigated.”
Montalto said the state has confiscated thousands of firearms since Florida adopted its “Red Flag” law.
Motivated by honoring the loved ones they lost, Montalto said Stand With Parkland families are on a mission to save lives.
“It’s a desire to extend the legacy of those that were taken from us by helping to ensure that no other families have to live the nightmare we have,” he said.
During a news conference Thursday, members of Maine’s congressional delegation spoke about regulating assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.
“We are not against [an assault weapons ban],” Montalto said. “But we aren’t sure it’s achievable right now. There are many other steps, such as limiting magazine capacity, requiring biometrics to allow firearms to operate or allowing ownership of those weapons but requiring them to be stored at an armory or other protected location.”