Family of murdered teen says stronger families may stop mass shootings

The parents of a 14-year-old girl killed in the mass shooting last week at a Parkland, Florida, high school say it's not gun control that will help put an end to these tragedies, but stronger families will.

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Ryan and Kelly Petty’s daughter, Alaina, a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was shot by Nikolas Cruz, who entered the school and began firing an AR-15 style rifle. They say Cruz is responsible for his actions, but that he needed more love and attention than he received after both of his adoptive parents died.

"Strong families are vital to a peaceful, functioning society," Ryan Petty told the Deseret News. "When families break down, that's where the problems begin. We need legislators and policymakers to pass legislation and create policies that strengthen families."

The Pettys, who are Mormon, have taken a different direction than most of the rhetoric being heard since the horrific shooting. President Donald Trump is advocating arming teachers and "hardening" schools. Others are pushing for gun control, while others are seeking better mental health and law enforcement initiatives.

"We wish and believe, that if somebody had been able to put their arms around him and show him some compassion and love to the extent that would have enabled him to get some help, things may have been very different last week," Ryan Petty said.

The family is still piecing together what happened to their daughter. She was in English class at the time the shooter entered the school. She was supposed to be picked up 30 minutes later for an orthodontist appointment.

The Petty’s 17-year-old son, also a student at the high school, managed to text his parents: “There’s a shooter on campus.”

When Kelly Petty tried to reach their daughter on her cellphone, they never got an answer.

The Pettys waited for information with other families at the Marriott Hotel. Information started coming about the shooter and details of his life. Cruz lost his adoptive mother last November and had a history of violent and threatening behavior.

“Having a strong family is the most important thing, to have support and love and to learn right from wrong,” Kelly Petty told the Deseret News. “When children don’t have that, sometimes they end up doing really bad things. If strong families were encouraged more and fought for more, more kids could be helped and not fall by the wayside and not do things like last week.”

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