Florida School Shooting Survivors Take Gun Control Message on the Road


CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — Grief and rage over one of the deadliest school shootings in modern American history have forced some lawmakers to begin to rethink their positions on gun control, and a powerful chorus of teenage voices is pushing those in Florida to limit access to semiautomatic rifles.

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed last week, are traveling on Tuesday to Tallahassee, the state capital, to call for a ban on assault rifles. The direct appeal to the Legislature follows protests outside schools, social media appeals and national television appearances.

• Assault rifles have become a particular target of the latest gun-control campaign. The police say the suspect in Wednesday’s massacre, Nikolas Cruz, was able to kill 17 people in just six minutes by wielding a semiautomatic weapon, an AR-15-style rifle.

The Miami Herald reported that legislators in both the Florida House and Senate are drafting legislation to limit access to semiautomatic rifles, after years of reluctance. The plan would bar people under 21 from possession of an assault rifle, and would require buyers to wait three days before purchasing any kind of rifle.

• A Washington Post/ABC News opinion poll released on Tuesday showed that 77 percent of Americans believe the Republican-controlled Congress is not doing enough to prevent mass shootings, with 62 percent saying President Trump has not done enough on that front.

• On Monday, the White House indicated that Mr. Trump was open to supporting a bipartisan effort to revise federal background checks for prospective gun buyers.

• In Florida, an AR-15 is easier to buy than a handgun. Read more on how the AR-15 became one of the weapons of choice for mass killers, and the research that tries to explain the high rate of mass shootings in the United States.

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Students from Douglas High in Parkland aboard the bus to Tallahassee on Tuesday.CreditSaul Martinez for The New York Times

Follow our reporter live as students travel to Tallahassee.

Buoyed by viral tweets and media interviews, several Stoneman Douglas High students who survived the attack have been vocal about wanting change since the shooting. Their message: We’ve been there. Listen to us.

At first, the students gained notice for their raw, emotional reactions in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. The emotion hasn’t receded, but efforts to channel their grief into legislative change — like 18-year-old Emma González’s appeal for gun laws — have been widely praised.

On Tuesday, teenagers from the school, gripping pillows and sleeping bags and carrying doughnuts and candy, packed a grocery store parking lot in Coral Springs, Fla., to begin the more than 400-mile journey to Tallahassee.

Their goal: convincing lawmakers to pass a slate of gun control bills in a state that has been among the friendliest to firearm owners in the nation.

Many had come straight from the funeral of one of the dead. They hugged their parents goodbye and loaded backpacks into the bellies of three buses. Dozens climbed aboard.

On bus two, Julia Bishop and Daniel Bishop, best friends and siblings, sat side-by-side. They are 18 and 16.

“This shooting is different from the other ones,” Mr. Bishop said. “Sandy Hook, they were elementary school kids who couldn’t stand up for themselves; Virginia Tech was 2007, a different time. But this one, I just have a gut feeling — something is going to change.”

Just hours after 17 people were killed in a mass shooting at their high school in Parkland, Fla., students turned to social media to advocate for more gun control.Published On

Students march in spontaneous show of support.

Dozens of students from West Boca Raton High School began marching south toward Stoneman Douglas High on Tuesday in a spontaneous show of support.

The students had first gathered in the courtyard of their school for a peaceful protest — 17 minutes of silence for the 17 victims — but then someone opened a door and walked out, and others followed, a videotape of the scene aired by WPTV showed.

“Everybody started walking,” one student told the news channel. “It felt like half the school was walking.”

As the students walked south on U.S. Highway 441, sheriff’s deputies lined the road to direct traffic and keep them safe, but did not interfere. The distance between the two schools is about 10 miles.

The march from Boca Raton surprised Broward County officials, who said they had heard nothing about the protest. Todd DeAngelis, a spokesman for the city of Parkland, said the authorities abruptly assembled an escort by law enforcement and organized water stations on a day when the temperature was in the low 80s.

Florida National Guard to honor three J.R.O.T.C. members who died.

Gov. Rick Scott of Florida announced that Florida National Guard members would be attending funeral services for the Stoneman Douglas High victims, and paying their respects to the three J.R.O.T.C. members who were killed: Cadet Peter Wang, Cadet Martin Duqe and Cadet Alaina Petty.

Mr. Cruz, the suspect, had been a member of his school’s Army Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, and had “excelled” in air rifle marksmanship contests with other schools in the area in a program that was supported by a grant from the National Rifle Association Foundation, according to The Associated Press. He was wearing his maroon J.R.O.T.C. emblem polo shirt when he was arrested after the shooting, The A.P. reported.

“We all have those shirts,” Angelyse Perez, an 18-year-old senior and a company commander, told The Washington Post. “We’re never wearing them again. We’re going to destroy them all.”

Teachers are grappling with being all that stands between a bullet and their students.

Across the country, teachers are grappling with how their roles have expanded, from educator and counselor to bodyguard and protector. They wonder if their classrooms are properly equipped, if they would recognize the signs of a dangerous student, and most of all, if they are prepared to jump in front of a bullet.

“I visualized what it would look like, and it made me sick,” said Catherine Collett, 28, a sixth-grade teacher in Northern Virginia who has spent recent days running through a thousand violent scenarios.

“Could I empty out the cabinet and throw out the shelves and put kids in the cabinets? Is my better chance just barricading the doors? Can I move furniture that fast? Do I ask my kids to help me?”

Read more about how teachers are preparing for the next mass shooting here. And here is a graphic that records the grim toll of school shootings across the nation.

A Russian bot army is sowing discord online.

One of the most divisive issues in the nation is how to handle guns, pitting Second Amendment advocates against proponents of gun control.

And one hour after news broke about the school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High, Twitter accounts suspected of having links to Russia released hundreds of posts taking up the gun control debate.

The accounts addressed the news with the speed of a cable news network. Some adopted the hashtag #guncontrolnow. Others used #gunreformnow and #Parklandshooting.

And the messages from these automated accounts, or bots, were intended to widen the divide and make compromise even more difficult. Read more about the Russian Twitter bots here.

Reporting was contributed by Julie Turkewitz from Coral Springs, Fla.; Alan Blinder from Parkland, Fla.; and Anemona Hartocollis and Daniel Victor from New York.


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