The sister of a teacher who died protecting her students during the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 has dedicated her life to tasking political leaders who she says let the same mistakes be made five years later.
Carlee Soto, 26, lost her then-27-year-old sister, Victoria Soto, in the Newtown, Connecticut massacre that left six educators and 20 first-graders dead. Victoria was one of the 26 people shot and killed on school grounds by Adam Lanza, who used a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle similar to an AR-15.
Confessed Florida shooter Nikolas Cruz used a similar AR-15 style weapon (a Smith & Wesson M&P15 rifle) to kill 17 people last week in Parkland.
In an op-ed for Cosmopolitan titled, "The Parkland Shooting Made Me Relive My Sister's Death at Sandy Hook. This Didn't Have to Happen Again," Soto wrote that the first thought that went through her heard when she heard about the shooting was "not again."
"I know what the families in Florida are going through, and my heart aches for them," Soto wrote. "The agony of trying to locate your loved one and the overwhelming heartbreak when the news is not what you were desperate to hear is something I—and they—will never, ever get past."
In her essay, Soto wrote that she misses her sister, who she referred to by her nickname, Vicki, every day.
"I miss my sister every single day. I miss her at Christmas when our family has to celebrate without her. I miss her every time my son celebrates a milestone and I can't call my sister to tell her all about it. I just miss her," she wrote.
An advocate for the Everytown network for gun safety, Soto argued that lawmakers haven't done enough to get guns out of the hands of those who exhibit warning signs. She cited the Red Flag Laws passed by Connecticut as well as California, Indiana, Oregon and Washington, which make it possible to take away a person's guns if they show signs of being dangerous.
Supporters of those measures, also called gun-violence restraining orders, say they can save lives by stopping some shootings and suicides.
Before Cruz carried out his own massacre on Valentine's Day last week, he was expelled from school, fought with classmates, had a fascination with weapons and hurting animals, posted disturbing images and comments on social media and had sought previous mental health treatment.
But Soto argued that those warning signs weren't enough for authorities, relatives or his schools to request a judicial order barring him from possessing guns because Florida does not have a red flag law.
Cruz legally purchased the semi-automatic rifle he used in the shooting.
"It is agonizing that our nation is now reeling after yet another a mass shooting where the shooter exhibited warning signs," Soto added in her piece. "It was reported that people who knew him referred to him as troubled and as someone who had threatened students. These are red flags for violence."
She called for action from politicians to "take action" and pass similar legislation "now."
"Thoughts and prayers are not enough. They have never been enough. The time to act to end this gun violence crisis is today, right now," she wrote.