After A Call To Action From Student Emma Gonzalez, Florida Activists Take On Gun Laws

Photo:RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images.
Three days after 17 people were fatally shot in her Florida high school, Emma Gonzalez stood before a Fort Lauderdale, FL gun control rally and called BS on lawmakers' "thoughts and prayers." She should have been at home grieving her classmates, she said, "but instead we are up here standing together because if all our government and president can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it's time for victims to be the change that we need to see."
A 19-year-old gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday, killing 14 students and three staff members, and injuring 14 others. The suspect was arrested and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. In the wake of the third mass shooting to take place in a U.S. school in the first two months of 2018, Marjory Stoneman Douglas students such as Gonzalez are calling for stricter gun control measures to prevent other students from living through the same tragedy.
"Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call B.S.," Gonzalez said at the rally on Saturday. "They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call B.S.... They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call B.S."
Other Marjory Stoneman Douglas students called BS on pro-gun advocates' Twitter arguments that the issue "isn't about a gun it's about another lunatic." And dozens of students from another Florida high school held a rally to call for gun reform, telling Refinery29: "Our message is simple: We want to stop the gun violence."
But increased gun control in Florida won't come easily. Despite Florida Governor Rick Scott telling CNN "everything's on the table" when it comes to gun reform in the state, he wouldn't explicitly say he supports stricter gun control laws. Scott has an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association's (NRA) Political Victory Fund, which stated in 2014 that he's "signed more pro-gun bills into law in one term than any other governor in Florida history." It's not just Scott who has the NRA's support, either; congressional and presidential candidates from Florida received a total of $834,165 from the NRA’s Political Victory Fund in the 2016 election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Currently, 18-year-olds can buy AR-15 rifles — originally designed for military use — without a waiting period in the state, while anyone seeking to buy a handgun must wait three days. Like most states, Florida also has “Stand Your Ground” laws that allow people to use deadly force to defend themselves against a perceived threat, as well as laws permitting people to carry concealed guns in public.
Florida's pro-gun laws have strong public support, too. As The New York Times' Richard A. Oppel Jr. reports: "Nearly two million residents have permits to carry concealed weapons, far more than any other state."
Florida is less an anomaly than an apt representation of the problems activists fighting for gun control face nationwide. After a mass shooting at Orlando's Pulse nightclub in 2016 that killed 49 people and another at the Fort Lauderdale airport in 2017 that killed five, no substantial gun reform laws were passed. The same inaction has been seen in Congress: Lawmakers failed to pass restrictions on bump stocks (which outfit semi-automatic rifles to fire more like automatic rifles) after 58 people were fatally shot in Las Vegas.
Gonzalez, many of her classmates, and other gun control activists believe enough is enough. On March 14, students and teachers will stage a national school walkout organized by the Women's March to demand Congress take action. And on March 24, activists will take to the streets in Washington D.C. in a March For Our Lives rally demanding the same.
Establishing stricter gun control measures in the U.S. certainly won't be easy, but activists think it's about time students stop dying in their classrooms.

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