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Survivors of Florida school shooting demand action on gun violence

Cameron Kasky, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas

Cameron Kasky, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, speaks at a rally urging gun control at the Broward County Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Rhona Wise

Survivors of Wednesday’s deadly shooting rampage at a South Florida high school vowed Sunday to march on Washington and take on the National Rifle Association and politicians who accept money from the powerful lobbying group.

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida — where 17 students and faculty were shot to death by a gunman on Valentine’s Day — made the Sunday talk show rounds, urging lawmakers to adopt stricter gun control laws in the wake of the nation’s most recent mass shooting. Several said those who did not support such measures would have “blood on their hands.”

Organizers said the goal is for supporters nationwide to hold rallies on March 24.

“People are saying that it’s not time to talk about gun control, and we can respect that. Here’s a time — March 24, in every single city. We are going to be marching together as students begging for our lives,” said Cameron Kasky, a junior at the school, during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.” “This isn’t about the GOP. This isn’t about the Democrats. This is about adults. We’re feeling neglected and at this point, you’re either with us or against us.”

Kasky, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said the multicity march aimed at the powerful gun lobby “is about us creating a badge of shame for any politicians who are accepting money from the NRA and using us as collateral.”

David Hogg, a senior at the high school, told NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “Our community and our nation have taken too many bullets to the heart. . . . Now is the time for us to stand up.”

Hogg recorded his classmates on his cellphone as they huddled together for protection in a closet during the shooting. Former student Nikolas Cruz, 19, who authorities said had a lengthy history of mental health issues, allegedly opened fire on his classmates with an AR-15 rifle. Authorities said Cruz purchased the rifle legally last year.

“I will not feel safe going back to school myself until reasonable mental health care legislation and gun control legislation is passed,” Hogg said.

Emma Gonzalez, a senior at the school, told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd students were issuing a direct appeal to President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to disavow the NRA.

“We are talking directly to them and all other members of the U.S. government that are being funded by the NRA to tell them now is the time to get on the right side of this,” Gonzalez said.

On “Face the Nation” on CBS, Gonzalez said: “At this point, I don’t even know if the adults in power who are funded by the NRA, I don’t think we need them anymore because they are going to be gone by the midterm election. There’s barely any time for them to save their skins, and if they don’t turn around right now and state their open support for this movement, they’re going to be left behind because you’re either with us or you’re against us at this point.”

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 told the Associated Press of Cruz, who was also in JROTC. “I mean, tighter gun control, it’s not gonna help. There’s always a way around it.”

The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the organization has not tweeted any statements since the Wednesday school massacre.

In a statement on Sunday, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) called for congressional hearings on the shooting.

“This tragedy could have and should have been prevented. The warning signs were there and clearly pointed to the fact this young man was extremely troubled,” Zeldin’s statement said. “In light of this tragedy, it is critical Congress, law enforcement and the American public identify how Nikolas Cruz slipped through the cracks. We must prevent another such breakdown. I support law abiding citizens having the ability to possess firearms to protect themselves, their families, their loved ones and property. However, we must ensure lunatics manifesting violent criminal intentions to murder with firearms have access to none.”

Several lawmakers on Sunday said they hoped the students’ activism would indeed be a turning point in the gun control debate.

“The difference this time, is that these kids . . . the world has heard them,” said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), who represents Parkland, on ABC’s “This Week.” “They’re just not going to sit back after what they experienced, after what they saw, the worst things imaginable. They’re not going to just sit back and take it,”

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), said, “there are a lot of Republicans who are prepared to support reasonable, common-sense gun safety laws,” and urged congressional GOP leaders to allow debate on some of the gun-control proposals floated, including expanding background checks for those purchasing guns.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, agreed with the students and told CNN that gun rights advocates should consider “common-sense” regulations.

“Would you feel as though your Second Amendment rights would be eroded because you couldn’t buy a goddarn AR-15?” he said. “These are things that have to be looked at, and action has to be taken.”

With The Washington Post

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