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Florida Shooting A Stark Reminder to Metro, Las Vegas

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(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Law enforcement officers block off the entrance to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. Nikolas Cruz was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder on Thursday, the day after opening fire with a semi-automatic weapon at the school.

Parkland, Florida is now part of a collection of communities around the country that have been home to a mass shooting. Las Vegas joined that collection in October.

Since that day, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police have been looking for clues as to why the shooter open fired on the Route 91 Harvest Festival, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more.

It was the worst mass shooting in modern American history, but it was not the last. On Valentine's Day, a young man walked into a school in Florida and open fired. He killed 17 and injured dozens more.

Clark County Undersheriff Kevin McMahill told KNPR's State of Nevada that the shooting in Florida brought back a lot of bad memories.

"It's just incredible that it keeps happening in our country," McMahill said, "Certainly, your heart goes out to all the victims. You know what they're going through at that particular time. You just wish it would stop happening, but I don't know that wishing is going to do a whole lotta good for anybody."

While the shooting in Florida has once again sparked the debate about how to stop another shooting from happening, McMahill said he believes it goes beyond a debate about the type of weapon that was used.

In Florida and in Las Vegas, the weapon of choice was an AR-15 rifle. 

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McMahill said there is a significant mental health problem in our communities while the number of beds in mental health facilities has declined.

The FBI has been criticized for not finding the Florida school shooter earlier. The agency said it had received tips about the admitted shooter Nikolas Cruz but didn't follow up on those tips.

The undersheriff said while those tips should have been followed up on there is not a lot of follow up care for people who are in crisis.  

"But the challenge really is: What do you do?" McMahill said, "You have an individual that has weapons you can take weapons away from them... and it is very easy for them to get their hands on weapons again."

McMahill believes there is a bigger discussion that needs to be had about why mass shootings keep happening beyond a discussion about gun rights or gun control. 

"We have to drop all of our positions and try and have a dialogue about how it is that we can protect our communities better," he said. 

While the nation is still debating the right approach to stopping mass shootings, McMahill said law enforcement and first responders in Southern Nevada have learned a lot from the 1 October shooting.

Metro and the local fire departments have been talking to other agencies around the country about how they worked together to get help to people on the festival grounds.

"One of the things we learned from this is when we pair police and fire and emergency medical services up together, we go in and provide force protection that we have the ability to save a lot lives in that golden hour once an individual is shot," he said.

The lessons from 1 October are still being learned and the scars are still healing.

McMahill said responding to the shooting hurt his heart and took a piece of his soul. 

He said more than 1,000 members of the department have sought help since the incident.

"It's an important piece and part of us to understand how that effects out employees as they continue to move forward," he said, "It was an area I thought we were fairly robust in prior to 1 October, but it is something we are working diligently to rapidly expand because of the demonstrated need."

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Undersheriff Kevin McMahill, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

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