Snow falls around Vancouver; slick roads expected Monday

An inch or so of snow fell in the Vancouver area late Sunday. It was the first wintry weather since Christmas and set the stage for what will likely be slick roads on Monday morning.

Because Monday is Presidents Day, schools and government offices are closed, reducing traffic. But motorists should be prepared for snow and black ice. The overnight low for Vancouver was forecast as 27 degrees.

The National Weather Service in Portland wasn’t predicting significant additional overnight snowfall, at least as of 10:30 p.m. Instead, the night was expected to become clear and cold. Those conditions should persist Monday.

For more information on the Monday commute and forecast, check columbian.com early Monday.

Do you have photos of Sunday’s snow that you’d like to share? Email them to metrodesk@columbian.com.

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Few states allow courts to take away gun rights

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The warnings around Nikolas Cruz seemed to flash like neon signs: expelled from school, fighting with classmates, a fascination with weapons and hurting animals, disturbing images and comments posted to social media, previous mental health treatment.

In Florida, that wasn’t enough for relatives, authorities or his schools to request a judicial order barring him from possessing guns.

Only five states have laws enabling family members, guardians or police to ask judges to temporarily strip gun rights from people who show warning signs of violence. Supporters of these measures, deemed “red flag laws” or gun-violence restraining orders, say they can save lives by stopping some shootings and suicides.

Florida, where Cruz is accused of using an AR-15 assault weapon to kill 17 people at his former high school, lacks such a law. He was able to legally own the semi-automatic rifle, even though his mother, classmates and teachers had at times described him as dangerous and threatening, and despite repeated police visits to his home.

Red flag legislation has been introduced by Democratic state lawmakers, but it hasn’t been heard during this year’s session, and its fate is uncertain in a state Legislature controlled by Republicans who generally favor expanding gun rights.

After Wednesday’s shooting, Republican Gov. Rick Scott said he will work to make sure people with mental illnesses don’t have access to guns, but offered no specifics. Florida’s GOP Sen. Marco Rubio — facing withering criticism over his acceptance of $3.3 million in career campaign cash donated through the National Rifle Association — is going a step further now.

Rubio said on a Sunday morning show that state legislators should “absolutely” consider enacting a law enabling family members or law enforcement officials to ask a court to remove guns from a person who poses a danger. Rubio, who once served as Florida’s House speaker, told Miami CBS affiliate WFOR that it’s an “example of a state law” that could have helped prevent the Florida shooting.

In 2014, California became the first state to let family members ask a judge to remove firearms from a relative who appears to pose a threat. Its legislature took action after a mentally ill man, Elliot Rodger, killed six students and wounded 13 others near the University of California, Santa Barbara, before killing himself.

California’s law also empowers police to petition for the protective orders, which can require authorities to remove firearms for up to one year. Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon and Washington also have some version of a red flag law.

More than a dozen others, including Hawaii, New Jersey and Missouri, are considering bills to enable family members or police to petition the courts to take weapons away from people showing signs of mental distress or violence.

The Florida shooting has revived debate about whether teachers and school administrators should have that authority as well, given that people at Cruz’s high school witnessed much of his erratic behavior.

California lawmakers voted to expand their law in 2016 so that high school and college personnel, co-workers and mental health professionals can seek the restraining orders, but Gov. Jerry Brown called the effort premature and vetoed it.

State Assemblyman Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat, said he plans to reintroduce the bill.

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Students vow to press for gun laws

PARKLAND, Fla. — Students who escaped the deadly school shooting in Florida focused their anger Sunday at President Donald Trump, contending that his response to the attack has been needlessly divisive.

“You’re the president. You’re supposed to bring this nation together, not divide us,” said David Hogg, a 17-year-old student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“How dare you,” he added.

Hogg was responding to Trump’s tweet Saturday that Democrats hadn’t passed any gun control measures during the brief time they controlled Congress with a supermajority in the Senate. Trump also alluded to the FBI’s failure to act on tips that the suspect was dangerous, while bemoaning the bureau’s focus on Russia’s role in the 2016 election.

Trump was at his Florida estate Sunday but did not mention the attack in a series of tweets. After more than a day of criticism from the students, the White House said the president would hold a “listening session” with unspecified students on Wednesday and meet with state and local security officials Thursday.

Florida politicians, meanwhile, scrambled to produce legislation in response to the Feb. 14 attack that killed 17 people. Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old who had been expelled from the school, is being held without bail in the Broward County Jail, accused of 17 counts of first-degree murder.

In a TV interview, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio embraced a Democratic bill in the Florida legislature to allow courts to temporarily prevent people from having guns if they are determined to be a threat to themselves or others.

Gov. Rick Scott, also a Republican, attended a prayer vigil at the First Church Coral Springs, a few blocks from the shooting site. He is expected to announce a legislative package with GOP leaders of the legislature this week.

Emma Gonzalez, another student who survived the attack, cited Trump, Rubio and Scott by name in a warning to politicians who are supported by the National Rifle Association.

“Now is the time to get on the right side of this, because this is not something that we are going to let sweep under the carpet,” she said on “Meet the Press.”

The students’ pointed comments are the latest signs of increased pressure for gun control after the massacre.

The students have vowed to become the face of a movement for tighter firearm regulations and plan to visit the state capitol in Tallahassee this week to demand immediate action. They are also calling for anti-gun violence demonstrations in Washington and other cities March 24.

Organizers behind the Women’s March, an anti-Trump and female empowerment protest, called for a 17-minute, nationwide walkout by teachers and students on March 14. The Network for Public Education, an advocacy organization for public schools, announced a day of walkouts, sit-ins and other events on school campuses April 20, the anniversary of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado that left 12 students and one teacher dead.

Not every student at the Florida school was calling for more gun control. James Ciaramello, a freshman in the school’s JROTC program, on Friday paused at a memorial in a park in front of a photo of one victim, 15-year-old Peter Wang, another JROTC student who was killed after holding open a door so others could escape.

“He’s just messed up,” Ciaramello said of Cruz, who was also in JROTC. “I mean, tighter gun control, it’s not gonna help. There’s always a way around it.”

School and government records obtained Sunday show Cruz was diagnosed as developmentally delayed at age 3 and had disciplinary issues dating to middle school. In February 2014, while in 8th grade, Cruz was transferred to a special school for children with emotional and behavioral issues. He stayed there until 10th grade, when he was transferred to Stoneman Douglas. A month after arriving, Cruz was written up for using profanity. Last year, Cruz was expelled.

On Sept. 28, 2016, an investigator from the Florida Department of Children and Families visited Cruz and his mother, Lynda Cruz, after he posted video on Snapchat showing him cutting himself. The report showed that Cruz had written a racial epithet against African-Americans and a Nazi symbol on his book bag, which his mother had forced him to erase. The investigator said Cruz was suffering from depression and on medication and had told Lynda Cruz he planned to buy a gun, but she couldn’t determine why.

She said he had been depressed after breaking up with a girlfriend who had been cheating on him, the investigator said. A school counselor told the investigator that Lynda Cruz had always tried to help her son and followed through on his therapy and medication, but the counselor was concerned about the youth’s desire to buy a gun.

A crisis counselor told the DCF investigator he had visited the school and that he did not believe Cruz was a danger to himself or others. The case was closed, with the investigator concluding that Cruz was receiving help from his mother and counselors, and “no other referrals or services were needed.”

After Lynda Cruz died in November, Cruz moved into the home of a teenage friend. The friend’s parents told the Sun-Sentinel newspaper they had no idea the extent of Cruz’s issues.

“We had this monster living under our roof and we didn’t know,” Kimberly Snead told the newspaper in an interview published Sunday. “We didn’t see this side of him.”

James Snead added: “Everything everybody seems to know, we didn’t know. It’s as simple as that.”

The Sneads said Cruz seemed unable to do even simple tasks like laundry or use the microwave.

He kept the AR-15 he allegedly used in the massacre locked in a gun safe with a few other firearms. James Snead thought he had the only key to the cabinet but says Cruz must have had another key.

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