Florida School Shooting Survivors To March On State Capitol For Tougher Gun Laws
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Updated at 6:35 a.m. ET
A week after a gunman killed 17 people at a Florida high school, students who survived the attack are set to bring their #NeverAgain protest movement to the state Capitol to demand action on guns and mental health.
Last Wednesday's shooting has galvanized students at the high school, who have begun to turn their grief into a call for action. However, it is likely to be an uphill battle to get one of their key demands – an outright ban on assault-style weapons such as the AR-15 that was used by the alleged gunman, who was reportedly a client at mental health facilities and had been expelled from school for disciplinary reasons.
On Wednesday, the students are planning a rally to demand a change in state laws to prevent a repeat of the shooting last week.
"We're what's making the change. We're going to talk to these politicians tomorrow. We're going to talk to them the day after that. We're going to keep talking, we're going to keep pushing until something is done because people are dying and this can't happen anymore," said Alfonso Calderon on Tuesday.
The 16-year-old junior is among about a hundred students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, accompanied by more than a dozen adult chaperones, who began arriving in Tallahassee late Monday. Some of them have already sat in on legislative sessions and met individually with some lawmakers.
As The Associated Press notes: "Democrats attempted to get a bill to ban assault rifles and large-capacity magazines heard on the House floor on Tuesday. Republicans, who dominate the chamber, easily dismissed it. Students who were at the Capitol ahead of their classmates who arrived late Tuesday found Republicans steered the conversation away from gun restrictions."
That has sparked anger among many of the students who feel their tragedy should be heard as a call to action.
Senior Emma González, who has emerged as a leader of the student movement, tweeted: "How could they do that to us ? Are you Kidding me ??? #NeverAgain We are not forgetting this come Midterm Elections - the Anger that I feel right now is indescribable."
"It really needs to be recognized that they need to stop fighting each other and starting working together," Jaclyn Corin, 17, the junior class president who conceived of the two-day trip to the state capital was quoted by The Tampa Bay Times as saying.
"This has to be the last school this happens to," she said.
Freshman Melissa Camilo, 15, was quoted by The Tallahassee Democrat newspaper as saying: "This could have all been prevented if people were doing their jobs."
"And the fact that us children have to start acting like the adults and start doing the jobs of the adults, it's really sad that we have to take action when these people have studied all their life to do a job that they're not doing," she said.
In a statement earlier this week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, said "swift action is needed" and that he was "bringing local and state leaders together to find solutions on how to prevent violence in our schools and keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill individuals."
Democratic State Sen. Kevin Rader, who represents Parkland, where the shooting took place, tells NPR's Morning Edition that he is optimistic that the legislature can address the issue in a meaningful way.
"I am fairly certain that we are going to have some changes in Tallahassee. No doubt about that," he tells NPR.
He takes Scott at his word that Republicans — who control the state legislature as well as the governor's mansion — can compromise on an issue they have long shown a reluctance to take up.
Rader says that unlike previous mass shootings in Florida, including the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando and the shooting at the Fort Lauderdale Airport in Jan. 2017, "The big difference between these three shootings is that this one happened during session, the other two didn't. So, everyone is coming back here to Tallahassee this week and for three more weeks of our nine week session ... and you can't ignore what happened."
At the federal level, President Trump on Tuesday said he had signed an executive order directing the Justice Department to move to ban bump stocks, an add-on device used to increase the rate of fire on rifles such as the AR-15. Bump stocks were used by the gunman who killed 58 people in Las Vegas last year.
"We must do more to protect our children," said Trump, who has been a strong supporter of gun rights.
As we reported earlier, "Shortly before the president made the announcement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump did support 'not having the use of bump stocks,' but she declined to elaborate on any other gun measures that Trump might back other than efforts to improve background checks."
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