Florida Students Set to Press Gun Control Case In State Capital
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Students who survived the Florida school shootingprepared to flood the Capitol Wednesday pushing to ban the assault-style rifle used to kill 17 people, vowing to make changes in the November election if they can’t persuade lawmakers to change laws before their legislative session ends.
About 100 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students arrived at a Tallahassee high school to extended applause late Tuesday after a 400-mile trip on three buses. They told the 500 students and parents waiting for them that they’re fighting to protect all students.
“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, a 16-year-old junior. “You guys are what we’re trying to protect.”
Despite their enthusiasm and determination, the students and their supporters aren’t likely to get what they really want: a ban on AR-15s and similar semi-automatic rifles. Republican lawmakers are talking more seriously about some restrictions, but not a total ban.
Instead, they’re discussing treating assault-style rifles like the one suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz is accused of using in the Valentine’s Day attack 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, 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.
Rachel Catania, 15, a sophomore at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland said she got a lot of non-answers from the politicians she spoke with Tuesday.
“I know it’s going to be hard, but I know we can do it,” she 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.”