The mother of a cheerleader in the stadium at Palm Beach Central High School when gunshots erupted Aug. 17 told a town hall meeting on gun violence it was “the most traumatic event I have ever endured in my life.”
Christy Moore recalled what felt like endless moments in which she was separated from her daughter in a panicked rush of spectators and players. Word had not reached her that the shooters had fled, and she feared any or all of them could be the next victims, she said.
Two days later, sitting in her Jeep, she said she thought, “I can’t believe we survived a shooting at our school.”
Two adults were injured by gunfire in Wellington. A little more than a week later in Jacksonville, three people died including the shooter and 10 were wounded during a shooting at a video game competition.
The town hall meeting at Wellington’s community center, hosted by U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, drew more than 100 people including local civic and school leaders Wednesday evening. It produced no easy consensus on what to do.
Frankel said she did not arrive with an “agenda,” and speakers expressed a wide spectrum of political views and proposed solutions.
Moore, for example, described herself as a supporter of President Donald Trump. Her husband Chris called on schools to improve security.
“Friday night football under the lights is something we talk about, ” he said. A shooting at a game? He said he believed “it’s never going to happen in Wellington.”
He noticed two police officers, one each on the home side and visitor’s side, he said.
“I pay $5 a person to get in, $5 to park,” Chris Moore. “There’s money to be reallocated there.”
Prompt response from law enforcement agencies once the shooting occurred has generated praise from some residents and elected leaders, though another speaker noted for all that, the suspects got away.
Palm Beach County Mayor Melissa McKinlay told the gathering she knows two families who have been traumatized in the last three months by suicides of young, mentally troubled men who were able to buy guns at retail stores.
“Those two young men should not have had access to guns,” she said.
The issue has been under scrutiny in Jacksonville, where alleged shooter David Katz, 24, was reportedly able to buy a pair of handguns legally in Baltimore despite a history of mental health problems and bring them with him to Florida.
But several speakers expressed wariness about the prospect of the government going too far in restricting gun sales.
“If we decide to take some people’s rights away, who will protect them?” asked Bruce Tumin of Wellington.
At least make it not so easy to obtain “mass destruction” weapons like an AR-15, another resident said. A woman with an 8-year-old child said the schools should provide more psychological and counseling help to reduce the chances that the mental and emotional struggles of some young people turn into violent gun incidents.
“Our children are scared, we have to be honest,” said Marcia Andrews, a Palm Beach County school board member serving western communities. “We know we’ve got a lot of work to do.”