Florida gun owner surrenders assault rifle after Parkland high school massacre

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 4:08 PM

Florida Gun Owner Gives Back Assault Rifle After Parkland Shooting

A Florida man spurred by the massacre that killed 17 people at a Parkland high school last week has “put (his) money where (his) mouth is” and surrendered his assault rifle to authorities.

Ben Dickmann, 40, wrote on Friday, in a Facebook post that has since gone viral, that he decided to lead by example.

“I own this rifle,” Dickmann wrote, sharing multiple photos of the semiautomatic AR-57 as he turned it in at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s a caliber variant of the AR-15.”

The suspected gunman in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, former student Nikolas Cruz, is accused of using an AR-15 to gun down 14 students and three faculty members on Valentine’s Day. 

“I am a responsible, highly-trained gun owner. (I am not a police officer or sheriff’s deputy),” Dickmann wrote. “However, I do not need this rifle.”

Dickmann wrote that no one without a police badge needs an AR-57.

“This rifle is not a ‘tool’ I have use for. A tool, by definition, makes a job/work easier,” Dickmann wrote. “Any ‘job’ I can think of legally needing doing can be done better by a different firearm.”

Dickmann wrote that, although he enjoyed shooting the weapon, he has other types of guns that he can shoot for recreation. He could have sold the rifle, he wrote, but “no person needs this.”

“I will be the change I want to see in this world,” Dickmann wrote. “If our lawmakers will continue to close their eyes and open their wallets, I will lead by example. #outofcirculation.”

Officials with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office praised Dickmann for his decision.

“We commend Ben for helping us get one more dangerous weapon off the streets,” a post on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page read.

The post also offered two ways for the public to turn in an unloaded, unwanted weapon. A citizen can call the department’s non-emergency line, 954-765-HELP, and inform a deputy that they have a weapon to surrender for destruction. 

“Leave the firearm in a location away from you in the home/business, allowing the responding deputy to retrieve it when they arrive,” the post read. “The deputy will take possession of the weapon (and) ammunition for disposal.”

The second way to turn the weapon in is to secure the gun in the trunk of a vehicle and drive to the nearest Sheriff’s Office substation. After parking in the visitors’ lot, a citizen can go inside and tell the deputy at the desk that he or she has a firearm and/or ammunition in the vehicle for surrender. 

“A deputy will meet with you and retrieve the weapon from your vehicle for disposal,” the post read

Dickmann, who lives about 30 minutes from Parkland in Fort Lauderdale, told NPR in an interview that the decision to give up his assault rifle came after “a lot of soul searching.” He said that, like others, he sees a lot of “thoughts and prayers” being offered, but not much else.

“I thought, ‘Well, this is something I can do that I think is right,” Dickmann said. “And it’s something I can do that might spark a change. You know, my whole goal was maybe to inspire one friend on my Facebook page to do the same thing. And maybe that friend would inspire one other person.”

Dickmann said he considered taking action after the Las Vegas shooting, but thought that his gun was not hurting anyone sitting in his gun safe. The Stoneman Douglas massacre, however, hit close to home. 

He said response to a Facebook post he wrote the day after the school shooting is what spurred that action. In that long post, Dickmann wrote that it was past time to do something about the mass violence undertaken with firearms in the United States.

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“I can now say I know people who have been directly affected by three of the most horrific gun violence events in our history (Northern Illinois University, Las Vegas, Stoneman Douglas), and a couple more single events,” he wrote. “This makes me sick. This makes me mad. I’m tired.”

In the Northern Illinois University shooting, which took place 10 years to the day before the Stoneman Douglas massacre, former NIU student Steven Kazmierczak walked onto the stage in an auditorium where class was taking place and gunned down five students before killing himself. More than a dozen more were injured. 

Commenters on Dickmann’s post, who numbered in the thousands, varied in their responses. Some thought he spoke common sense, while others accused him of being a paid lackey for the anti-gun crowd. 

Dickmann told NPR that it was sarcasm from one man who told him, “Well, if you feel this way, why don’t you go turn your gun in?” The man even offered to drive Dickmann to the station. 

“Even though he was being extremely sarcastic about it because he’s a very staunch conservative, gun rights activist person, it kind of spurred me to say, ‘You know what? Yeah, I’ll do that,’” he said

Dickmann said he’s glad that his actions sparked a debate.

“I hope somebody, be it the students, be it the next generation, picks up the torch and does something,” he said

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March for Our Lives rallies taking place across the globe

Published: Saturday, March 24, 2018 @ 9:07 AM
Updated: Saturday, March 24, 2018 @ 1:40 PM

VIDEO: Scenes from March for Our Lives Rallies

Marches and rallies are being held in the U.S. and around the world Saturday as part of the March for Our Lives event. The student-led movement is addressing the issues of gun violence and gun control, prompted by a series of deadly mass shooting in the U.S.

>> Read more trending news 

The movement was sparked by student survivors of the Parkland High School mass shooting in Florida on Feb. 14, in which former student Nikolas Cruz, 19, killed 17 people and injured dozens. 

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Area students join push to end school gun violence, but division remains

Published: Saturday, March 24, 2018 @ 11:21 AM

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24:  People protest during the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. More than 800 March for Our Lives events, organized by survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead, are taking place around the world to call for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: People protest during the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. More than 800 March for Our Lives events, organized by survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead, are taking place around the world to call for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The debate over how to stop the ceaseless and senseless taking of lives by mass shooters is louder than it has been in years — and nowhere louder than in and around American schools.

Spurred last month by young survivors of a high school shooting that killed 17 of their classmates, teachers and coaches in Parkland, Fla., a movement this month spilled out of school doors across the country and in southwest Ohio, where students called for action.

“Teenagers from high schools all across the nation have risen up to demand change,” said Suhavi Salmon, a junior at Springboro High School, who joined thousands more students across southwest Ohio in March 14 walkouts to remember the Marjory Stonemen Douglas High School dead.

RELATED: Thousands of Ohio students walk out: ‘Community should be very proud’

On Saturday, marchers of all ages called on legislators to do more to prevent gun violence and mass shootings at a massive youth-led demonstration in Washington, D.C., and at more than 800 other rallies across the world and in cities including Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton.

Ohioans of all ages — from students, to parents, to cops, to legislators — say the gunfire must stop.

Many agree that more resource officers, counselors in schools and earlier detection of mental illness and better treatment are wise steps. But the nation remains divided — even among the young — on other proposals to prevent killings: universal background checks, increased restrictions on assault-style rifles or arming teachers with guns – a controversial practice already implemented on a limited basis in some area schools.

RELATED: Teachers with guns? Some Ohio districts arm staff but don’t tell public

About 400 Centerville High School students participated in the March 14 walkout, but another 20 students demonstrated with signs in support of the National Rifle Association.

A group of young demonstrators made coordinated signs for the rally in Washington, D.C.(People Magazine)

Logan Cole was hit twice inside West Liberty-Salem High School by shotgun blasts allegedly fired by fellow student Ely Serna on Jan. 20, 2017. While many are calling for more restrictions on guns, the local survivor of a school shooting declined to join a walkout there he thought politicized a heated Second Amendment issue.

“I feel like violence in our schools and our societies is a much deeper issue,” Cole said. “And I feel like it’s a little bit simplistic to look at this and point out gun control as the problem.”

RELATED: Local student shot at school urges classmates not to walk out

But unending school shootings — from Columbine, to Sandy Hook, to Marjory Stonemen Douglas — have left the nation’s students in a perpetual state of fear and stifle learning, say kids and educators.

J.J. Miller, 17, of Baltimore, Md., blows bubbles as crowds arrive for the "March for Our Lives" rally in support of gun control, Saturday, March 24, 2018, in Washington.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Even unfounded threats such as one March 7 at Dayton’s Belmont High School put students on edge and disrupt schooling.

“I literally started crying and ran out the door,” said Jasmyne Scott, a Belmont freshman, when the report of a student with a gun spread through the building and shaken students spilled out of the doors.

“Everyone just started running,” she said.

RELATED: Belmont High School students believing gun threat hide, flee classes

This month at a Schools, Guns, and Safety Town Hall organized by WHIO and the Dayton Daily News, state Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, said legislators have been rendered near mute on the issues, singling out fellow statehouse Republicans.

“One place I don’t feel there’s a real robust conversation going on is frankly in the legislature,” she said. “There are one-on-one discussions but nowhere near the active, vibrant conversation I think needs to take place.”

Part of the difficulty in finding consensus is a fear that any action will lead to encroachment of Second Amendment rights, Lehner said.

MORE: School safety panel agrees on counselors, splits on armed officers

“I believe it’s very possible to take some steps that will not in any way interfere with an individual’s right to own arms,” she said.

J.J. Miller, 17, of Baltimore, Md., blows bubbles as crowds arrive for the "March for Our Lives" rally in support of gun control, Saturday, March 24, 2018, in Washington.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“There’s nobody in this room or in this community or in this state who wants to ever see another gun shooting take place — another school shooting — and yet the solutions seem to be so elusive,” Lehner said.

Last week, Democrats in the Ohio Senate introduced legislation that would allow police to seize firearms from people who seem to be at risk of harming themselves or others. Also supported by Republican Gov. John Kasich, the “Red Flag Law” could be used to remove guns from people with mental illness who failed to take prescribed medications.

RELATED: Gun control advocates push for ‘red flag’ law in Ohio

The proposal drew immediate opposition by Second Amendment advocates.

“Taking someone’s property without due process is wrong. It’s completely un-American,” said Jim Irvine, board president of the Buckeye Firearms Association. “Gun control is a failed idea. Continuing to push it is refusing to accept reality.”

The burden placed on teachers and administrators to keep students safe is enormous, say some educators. Active shooter drills and armed resource officers in schools only heighten the angst of young people, some already struggling in chaotic environments, some say.

MORE: Local superintendent after mass shooting: ‘The kids are scared’

Other districts locally and in Ohio have allowed trained staff access to weapons in schools.

VIDEO: Scenes from March for Our Lives Rallies

Mad River Local Schools implemented an armed response team two years ago, said Jerry Ellender, the district’s treasurer. Sidney City Schools has a nearly identical program adopted in 2013. The guns aren’t carried by staff members, but remain in safes that can be unlocked by volunteers with firearms training.

“We don’t want a gun floating around that’s accessible to a student or taken away from a teacher and used by a student,” Ellender said.

Some districts have gone so far as to allow staff members to carry concealed weapons. Edgewood City Schools in Butler County adopted a concealed carry policy in 2013, and last year Georgetown Exempted Village Schools east of Cincinnati turned to directly arming teachers.

“It’s ultimately about putting people in place to protect the house,” said Georgetown Superintendent Chris Burrow. “We hope and pray it would never be us, but at the end of the day, we have to be ready in seconds and not minutes.”

RELATED: Guns in school: ‘We have to be ready in seconds and not minutes’

David Romick, president of the Dayton Education Association, told Dayton Board of Education members last week that guns are the last tool educators need to battle school shooters.

“Arming teachers and bringing more potential violence to the schoolhouse is not the answer,” Romick said. “Instead, arm all educators with counselors, mental health services and other wraparound services to serve the children and families who need them most.”

Charlie Ross, a junior at Oakwood High School who participated in the safety town hall, voiced similar concerns.

“I think I can say overwhelmingly we find the idea of arming our own teachers to be a very daunting and scary idea. It will ruin our learning environment,” Ross said. “I personally believe — and especially from talking to my fellow students — that a good way to prevent these unfortunate shootings from happening is again to focus on counselors and identifying such troubled students before we even get to an active shooter situation.”

MORE: ACLU warns Ohio schools: We’re watching how you handle student protests

More school resource officers and better mental health care — two steps believed most politically achievable — suffer from a lack of funding, advocates of both say.

“We have to find the money, eliminate the excuses and get this done,” said Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer, calling for more law enforcement officers to work directly with schools.

Joni Watson, a teacher at Horace Mann School in Dayton and vice president of the Dayton Education Association, said more resources can help turn troubled lives around and prevent future tragedies.

“We need money for mental health services, that’s the bottom line,” Watson said. “Every single time there’s a school shooting, you hear that the child was isolated, the child felt bullied, the child felt like he or she didn’t belong — every single time.”

Staff writers Laura Bischoff, Will Garbe and Jeremy P. Kelley contributed to this report.

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Mother crashed car into pole to prove to kids God is real, police say

Published: Friday, March 23, 2018 @ 9:24 PM

Police: Mom Crashed Car into Pole to Prove to Kids God is Real

Police say a mother intentionally crashed her SUV into a pole to prove to her two small children that God is real.

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Investigators say Bakari Warren, 25, told officers after the crash that she did it on purpose to show her kids that if they believe, God would protect them.

The crash and the 5- and 7-year-old kids’ explanation were all caught on camera. 

Police say Warren was driving northbound on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard when she crossed into the southbound lanes and drove head on into a concrete pole.

Sitting in a police car, her children explained what happened before the crash.

“You think she did it on purpose?” the officer asked.

>> Related: 12-year-old boy missing after getting on wrong school bus found near his home

“Yeah because she turned. Her eyes was closed and she was saying, blah, blah, blah, ‘I love God,’” one daughter said. “She didn’t want us to just have a car accident. She wanted us to know that God is real."

Police said Warren told her children to buckle up their seat belts just before she accelerated into the pole. Warren was frisked and handcuffed right after she got out of the SUV.

“When the officers asked the driver of the vehicle what had happened her first statement was to check her Facebook, and it would explain what happened,” Norcross police Sgt. Eric Butynski said.

>> Related: Missing Iowa family of 4 found dead in Mexico 

Nothing was found directly referencing the incident on what appeared to be her Facebook page, but police say she later gave the same reasons as her kids -- to prove that God will protect them. 

No one was hurt in the accident, but officers say it could have been much worse.

“It could have been a lot worse. It could have been heavier traffic at the time, she could have hit the pole at such an angle that she did more damage to the car,” Butynski said.

Warren remains in jail on $22,000 bond. She is charged with two counts of child cruelty. 

>> Related: College student seriously injured while on spring break in Cancun 

The children are now with their grandparents

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Warrants issued for 100 parents over kids missing school

Published: Friday, March 23, 2018 @ 8:06 AM

Warrants Issued for Over 100 Parents Whose Kids Missed School

Warrants have been issued for more than 100 parents in Shelby County whose children are habitually absent from school.

Robo calls, emails, and more have been sent to about 107 parents with 143 children. There are active arrest warrants for these parents because of their child(s) attendance, or lack thereof, from school.

By law, parents whose kids have five days of unexcused absence from school can be found guilty of a misdemeanor crime. It is punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail, along with fines of up to $2,500.

>> Read more trending news 

Shelby County School, the Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office are partnering up to help parents remedy the legal situation. They are hosting Operation Safe Serve, which gives parents a chance to resolve court-related issues without fear of arrest.

Instead of being taken into custody, the active arrest warrant will be converted into a criminal summons, unless there is another issue present. Parents will be given a court date on when to return.

“We don’t want to fill the jails. We want to fill the classrooms,” District Attorney General Amy Weirich said. “Operation Safe Serve is an opportunity for parents to help themselves while also helping their children.”

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