Should Parkland victims get $160 million in public money to compensate them for their losses?

Facing a mountain of possible litigation, Florida lawmakers could take the unprecedented step of creating a $160 million fund to pay the families of the 34 people killed or injured in the deadliest school shooting in the state’s history.

The bills to create compensation funds include an admission that “multiple failures at various levels of government” culminated in the mass shooting and contributed to its magnitude.

Families of the 17 killed and 17 wounded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018, could access the funds only if they agree not to sue the state or its agencies.

Creating such a large taxpayer-backed fund would be an extraordinary act, said Kenneth Feinberg, who administered funds for 9/11, the Pulse nightclub shooting and other national tragedies.

“You can find many innocent victims in Florida who say government failed,” Feinberg said. “It’s a slippery slope when you decide government will step up and compensate only certain victims.”

He could think of only two examples where funds were created using public dollars to pay victims of a national tragedy — the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the compensation provided to more than 100,000 Japanese Americans who were incarcerated in internment camps during World War II. Both involved the allocation of federal money by Congress.

Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was killed in the Parkland shooting, said making the state pay for its mistakes is one way to ensure similar lapses don’t happen in the future. Those failures have been well documented. The FBI and the Broward Sheriff’s Office bungled tips. Deputies held back as gunshots were fired. School officials fumbled lock-down procedures

“There are a lot of ways to hold people accountable and ensure that people don’t ever forget the reality of their failure,” Guttenberg said. “This is just one of those ways. If people want to try and make it that this is just about money, that is just their issue — not mine. My issue is I go home to an empty bedroom every day.”

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