Parkland High School teacher’s mom presses for stiffer gun laws in Nassau

Parkland High School teacher’s mom presses for stiffer gun laws in Nassau
Linda Beigel Schulman shares the story of her son Scott Beigel, who was killed during the Parkland High School shooting in 2018. (Photo by Cameryn Oakes)

On Feb. 14, 2018, an active shooter entered the halls of Parkland High School in Parkland, FL. When he reached the third floor of the school, he confronted geography teacher Scott Beigel as he was attempting to get his students into the classroom to safety.

The shooter killed 17 students and faculty.  Beigel, a Long Island native, was one of them as he closed the door behind his students. He saved numerous lives in the last heroic moment of his life.

Linda Beigel Schulman, Scott Beigel’s mother who was raised in Roslyn, demanded that attendees at a rally Thursday advocating for gun safety look at the pictures of her son’s final moments from the school’s security cameras.

“Take a real good look,” Beigel Schulman said. “This is my reality. We must stop this from ever becoming your reality.”

Dozens of gun safety advocates, victims of gun violence and local political candidates gathered on the lawn in front of the Nassau County Supreme Court Thursday afternoon to advocate for more rigorous enforcement of the state’s Red Flag law in Nassau.

ERPO – or Red Flag laws – stands for Extreme Risk Protection Orders, which prevent guns from entering the hands of individuals at risk of using guns to hurt themselves or others. The law ensures that guns are not removed from individuals or prevents individuals from obtaining them without due process.

Jana Nesbitt Gale, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action on Long Island, works to reduce all forms of gun violence in the United States.

“We are mothers and others, and we care deeply about the safety of our children, our neighbors, our community and our country,” Nesbitt Gale said.

Nesbitt Gale said the Red Flag laws are currently being underutilized in Nassau County.

In one year, Suffolk County issued more than 1,500 Red Flag orders. In the same time period, Nassau County issued fewer than 40.

“It’s not about taking the gun away forever, it’s just about providing a temporary cooling off period for the safety of the person in question and those around us,” Nesbitt Gale said.

The law was recently expanded in New York State after the Buffalo shooting in May 2022 that killed 10 people and injured three. This expansion requires local law enforcement and district attorneys to file Red Flag orders when credible information is obtained that an individual would likely cause serious harm if they had a gun in their possession.

“It wasn’t always this way,” Nesbitt Gale said. “It wasn’t this way when I was growing up a mile from here when we didn’t have school shooting drills. The good news is it doesn’t have to stay this way either.”

At the time of the Parkland shooting, Florida did not have any Red Flag Laws enacted. The school shooter, despite being a known risk, was able to legally purchase an AR-15 gun in Florida.

Beigel Schulman said that if the laws had been enacted in Florida then, her son would still be alive.

“Scott’s murder and his death were a direct result of Florida’s failure to have a Red Flag law in place,” Beigel Schulman said. “The people who were in the Florida legislature at that time have Scott’s blood on their hands. Scott is dead because they refused to act. Do we want the same thing to happen here in Nassau County?”

Beigel Schulman called out the Republican-led Nassau County Legislature and County Executive Bruce Blakeman for not vigorously enforcing the state’s Red Flag laws.

“Why are the Nassau County Republicans against preventing more gun deaths by making better use of this highly effective, reasonable and constitutional gun safety legislation?” Beigel Schulman asked. “Why is the Nassau County Republican-led government putting NRA’s demands and politics over the lives of our children, our families, our friends and our coworkers?”

A member of Moms Demand Action shouted “Shame on them” as Beigel Schulman called out the county’s Republicans.

“We will vote you out of office if you continue to prevent the enforcement of the Red Flag law,” Beigel Schulman said. “We will do that.”

Weihua Yan, candidate for Nassau County’s District 10 legislative seat, said gun violence is an epidemic that is especially heinous for people of color whose lives are at risk due to hate crimes exacerbated by gun violence.

“We are left vulnerable to the possibility of violent hate crimes,” Yan said. “Hate crimes have been rising across America, and far too often those crimes take away our loved ones because the perpetrators were able to get their hands on a gun. We have reached a national breaking point and we will simply not tolerate another life lost to preventable acts of violence.”

Beigel Schulman held back tears as she said that she would never share another holiday, another Mother’s Day with her son.

“The proper enforcement of Red Flag laws means that people like me, like you, your family, your friends, your co-workers will not have to endure what I do each day,” Beigel Schulman said. “You will not have to celebrate New Year’s, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays and so many other holidays and special occasions without someone you love due to gun violence. You will never have to live with a scar that never heals, the pain that never goes away and the sense of loss that you will live with each and every day.”

Resources for gun safety education can be found online, including organizations Be SMART and One Thing You Can Do.

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