WOODSTOCK – A week after a shooter slaughtered 17 people on Valentine’s Day in a Florida high school, McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks delivered an address to his constituents urging sweeping changes to prevent future massacres.
“I can’t take this anymore, and I know that you can’t, either. These killings are an epidemic as serious as opioids,” Franks said at the County Board’s Feb. 20 meeting. “I’m sick and tired of seeing our flags out front flying at half-staff – seemingly all the time – because some troubled individual got his hands on a gun and killed innocent people.”
While Franks said he’s a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, the chairman pushed for strengthened background checks and more mental health funding.
“It makes no sense to pay hundreds of billions of dollars for national defense while our citizens are being slaughtered, not in acts of war by foreign aggressors, but in schools, parks and movie theaters,” Franks said. “Gun owners need to be asked if they really need to own weapons that can quickly spit out hundreds of rounds for the sole purpose of killing people.”
The suspect in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, has been jailed on 17 counts of murder.
Defense attorneys, state records and people who knew him indicate that he displayed behavioral troubles for years, including getting kicked out of the Parkland school. He owned a collection of weapons.
Franks encouraged people on both sides of the firearms debate – gun rights and gun control – to talk to each other.
“Not at each other. Not about each other. To each other,” Franks said. “Not on Facebook, not on screaming talking-head news shows, but to each other, and to our state and federal lawmakers.”
The fabric of society depends on an open dialogue between both sides, Franks said.
“We have to act, and quickly, before it’s too late,” Franks said. “Telling the victims’ families that they are in our thoughts and prayers is not enough.”
Hours before Franks delivered his remarks, students who survived the shooting at Stoneman Douglas began a 400-mile journey to Florida’s capital to urge lawmakers to prevent a repeat of the massacre.
The normally staid Florida Statehouse filled with students, among them more than 100 survivors of the attack.
They held signs, chanted slogans and burst into lawmakers’ offices demanding to be heard.
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.