Florida heroes honored; views shifting on guns

Updated 2018-02-22 14:52:03

A memorial for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Peter Wang in a park in Parkland, Florida, Feb. 16, 2018. Peter Wang, 15, was reportedly holding the door to his study hall open to help dozens of his fellow classmates escape on Feb. 14 before he was shot multiple times and killed by gunman Nikolas Cruz.

U.S. voters are supporting stricter gun laws, according to two polls released on Tuesday, as survivors of the Florida high school where 17 teens and educators were gunned down in a shooting rampage pushed to reduce gun violence.

Meanwhile the U.S. Army announced it would honor three of the gunned down students who were ROTC cadets.

Voters support tightening gun laws by 66 to 31 percent, the highest level of support ever measured by the independent Quinnipiac University national poll.

In an ABC News/Washington Post poll, 58 percent say stricter gun laws could have prevented the Feb 14 tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Still more, 77 percent, believe improved mental health screening and treatment could have prevented the attack.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student of the Florida school who was expelled for disciplinary reasons, has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and has not yet entered a plea.

Cruz's lawyers said there were many warning signs that he was mentally unstable and potentially violent. Yet he legally purchased a semi-automatic rifle, the Associated Press reported.

On Tuesday afternoon, a group of students who survived the Florida school shooting started a 400-mile trip to the state capital of Tallahassee to pressure lawmakers to act on a sweeping package of gun control laws, the AP reported.

However, the Florida state House has voted down a motion to take up a bill that would ban assault rifles, but a Florida Senate committee has endorsed a proposal to put law enforcement officers in every school in the state.

Also on Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump said he had signed a memo directing the Justice Department to propose regulations to "ban all devices" like bump stocks used in the October shooting deaths of 58 people in Las Vegas.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Tuesday that a listening session will be held at the White House on Wednesday for parents, teachers, and students to discuss efforts to ensure safety at schools. The attendees will include people from Parkland.

In a related development, three junior ROTC cadets who were killed in the Florida school shooting are being honored by the U.S. Army.

The Medal of Heroism was presented to the family of 14-year-old Alaina Petty at a memorial service on Monday, the Army said, and one was given to the family of Peter Wang during his memorial service on Tuesday morning. The family of Martin Duque, also aged 14, will be given the medal on Saturday, the Army added.

The medal recognizes cadets whose performance "involved the acceptance of danger and extraordinary responsibilities".

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point is posthumously admitting Peter, who had spent part of his childhood in his parents' native China and had dreamed of attending West Point, friends said.

Peter, 15, wearing his junior ROTC uniform, held open a door to allow his fellow classmates, teachers and staff to escape the shooting rampage, according to students and teachers.

An online petition to the White House sought military honors at Wang's funeral. It had more than 43,700 signatures as of Tuesday.

"His selfless and heroic actions have led to the survival of dozens in the area. Wang died a hero, and deserves to be treated as such, and deserves a full honors military burial," the petition said.

The petition needs 100,000 signatures by March 18 to get a response from the White House, according to whitehouse.gov.

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