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Broward County sheriff defends leadership during Florida shooting

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel speaks to the

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel speaks to the media on Feb. 15, 2018, about the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Credit: Getty Images / Mark Wilson

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel defended his department’s response to the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead, saying Sunday he offered “amazing leadership” and would not step down.

The department has come under scrutiny for missing key warning signs about the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, 19, and failing to engage Cruz in the building. Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, the school’s resource officer, resigned last week after it was revealed that he did not enter the school. Broward County officials said last week they received at least 20 calls about Cruz in recent years.

“We will investigate every action of our deputies, of their supervisors, and if they did things right, we’ll move forward, and if they did things wrong, I will take care of business,” in the same way that Peterson’s role was reviewed, Israel said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

Israel said he would not resign, telling Tapper “we all make mistakes. But it’s not the responsibility of the general or the president if you have a deserter,” he said, referring to Peterson. “We’re looking into this aggressively, and we’ll take care of this, and justice will be served.”

The issue of gun control was widely discussed on the Sunday morning talk-show circuit, reflecting a national debate about the role law enforcement plays in preventing mass shootings. President Donald Trump has called for arming “gun-adept” educators, a proposal embraced by the National Rifle Association but rejected by the nation’s largest teachers unions.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who emerged as a gun control advocate after the 2012 killing of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in his home state, said on CNN’s “State of The Union” that the issue should be viewed within a broader context.

“As much as we all would have liked this school security officer to act differently, once you are in the position of hoping that a school security officer or a gym teacher decides to take a pistol to someone with a military-style assault weapon, public policy has failed,” Murphy said. “You should be passing laws to stop that kind of horrific incident from happening in the first place.”

Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott said on “Fox News Sunday” that while he is an NRA member and a supporter of the Second Amendment, he was working with state legislators to pass a gun control package that would raise the age to buy guns to 21, ban the sale of bump stocks, pass a red flag law to initiate restraining orders for those threatening gun violence, provide $500 million for school security and boost mental health care.

“I want my state to be safe,” Scott said. “I want every child to be in a safe environment when they’re trying to be educated.”

NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” reiterated the organization’s opposition to raising the age to purchase firearms to 21, as proposed by Trump in the past week.

Loesch said “the NRA doesn’t back any ban,” when asked if the organization supported Trump’s push to ban bump stocks and other devices that convert semi-automatic rifles into automatic rapid-fire rifles.

The powerful gun lobbying group, with about 5 million registered members, does back Trump’s suggestion to arm schoolteachers, Loesch said.

“If parents and teachers voluntarily choose to be armed, I think that’s something schools will have to come up with and determine for themselves,” she said.

David Hogg, a senior at Stoneman Douglas, when asked if he felt “let down” by authorities’ response to Cruz, told ABC’s “This Week”: “Were there mistakes made? Absolutely. Is anything going to change? I certainly hope so, but this is something we can’t go back and change now. We just have to look to the future and fix it.”

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