Florida school shooting survivors urge politicians to act on gun control

Florida school shooting survivors urge politicians to act on gun control
Hundreds of high school and middle school students from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. Pic: OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images

Survivors of the Florida school shooting have descended on the state legislature to deliver one overarching message on gun control: It is time for action.

The youngsters split into several groups to talk with representatives and state leaders about controlling firearms, the legislative process and mental health issues one week after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the Parkland area.

Some tearfully asked why civilians should be allowed to have weapons such as the AR-15, which was used in the attack.

When Florida's senate president Joe Negron heard the question, he did not directly answer, saying: "That's an issue that we're reviewing."

When another representative said he supported raising the age to buy assault-style weapons to 21 from 18, the students broke into applause.

The Florida senate opened its session in Tallahassee by showing pictures of all 17 victims in the attack.

"There are some really harrowing tales here," said Democratic senator Lauren Book of Broward County, who helped organise busloads of students who arrived at the Capitol building late on Tuesday night.

She stayed overnight with the students in Tallahassee's Civic Centre and said they stayed up until 5am, researching, writing and preparing to talk with politicians.

"It has been a very, very difficult, tough night. It's in those quiet moments that the reality of this stuff, without all the noise, sets in. In any given moment, there's tears. It's raw and it's there."

About 100 pupils from the high school made the 400-mile trip on three buses. They told the 500 students and parents waiting for them that they were fighting to protect all students.

Alfonso Calderon, a 16-year-old junior, said: "We're what's making the change. We're going to talk to these politicians. We're going to keep pushing until something is done because people are dying and this can't happen any more."

Despite their enthusiasm and determination, the students and their supporters are not likely to get what they really want: a ban on AR-15s and similar semi-automatic rifles. Republican representatives are talking more seriously about some restrictions, but not a total ban.

Instead, they are discussing treating assault-style rifles like the one suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz is accused of using more like handguns than long guns.

That could mean raising the minimum age to purchase the weapon to 21, creating a waiting period and making it more difficult for people who exhibit signs of mental illness from buying the weapon even without a diagnosis.

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, dismissed it. Students who were at the Capitol ahead of their classmates found that Republicans steered the conversation away from gun restrictions.

Rachel Catania, 15, a sophomore at Stoneman Douglas, said: "We're not going to be the school that got shot, we're going to be the school that got shot and made something happen. A change is going to happen."

PA & Digital Desk

More on this topic

How a grieving mum turned her anger into a force for goodHow a grieving mum turned her anger into a force for good

Man pleads guilty over deadly Florida airport shootingMan pleads guilty over deadly Florida airport shooting

US shooting victim's father sues deputy who did not enter schoolUS shooting victim's father sues deputy who did not enter school

Teacher at gun massacre school 'compared student to Hitler'Teacher at gun massacre school 'compared student to Hitler'

More in this Section

Teenager on murder charge after lawyer stabbed to death in UKTeenager on murder charge after lawyer stabbed to death in UK

Plane makes emergency landing on road in CroatiaPlane makes emergency landing on road in Croatia

EU Commission chief to have emergency gallbladder operationEU Commission chief to have emergency gallbladder operation

Family of police officer killed in the UK ‘devastated’ following his deathFamily of police officer killed in the UK ‘devastated’ following his death


Lifestyle

Incarcerated in Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps Zuzana Ruzickova somehow survived and went on to create the complete recordings of her beloved Bach, writes James Lawless.Book review: Nazi horrors replaced by brutal Soviets for piano player

The Menu was delighted to make recent mention of a new UCC postgraduate diploma in Irish food culture and is equally pleased to announce availability of two new bursaries for same.The Menu: Food news with Joe McNamee

George Orwell’s classic novel foretold a lot, but the manner in which we’ve handed over our personal data to faceless corporatocracies is doubleplus-ungood, says Suzanne Harrington.How we sleepwalked into George Orwell’s nightmarish vision

Esther N McCarthy has her eye (and ear) on party speakers for your BBQ, spots a rug that’s out of this world, and revels in all that’s on offer for Heritage Week and Cork Craft Month.Your interiors wish list: Party speakers, Heritage Week and Cork Craft Month

More From The Irish Examiner