As Parkland Survivors Head to State Capitol, Lawmakers Reject Motion for Gun Control Bill
Continuing the lead they have taken in advocating for gun control, 100 students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and their parents or chaperones are traveling to Tallahassee, Fla., to march Wednesday on the state Capitol in the first organized protest of their #NeverAgain movement. However, even as they were en route, the Florida Legislature rejected a motion to take up a bill from State Rep. Kionne McGee, a Democrat from Miami, banning assault rifles.
The New Yorker explains the meaning of the hashtag and its significance in the fight for gun control after the Parkland shooting:
By Sunday, only four days after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, the activist movement that emerged in its aftermath had a name (Never Again), a policy goal (stricter background checks for gun buyers), and a plan for a nationwide protest (a March for Our Lives, scheduled for March 24th). It also had a panel of luminary teens who were reminding America that the shooting was not a freak accident or a natural disaster but the result of actual human decisions.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that the students are demanding that the Florida legislators use the remaining three weeks of their annual session “to revise state mental health and gun laws to forestall a repeat of the Parkland school shooting that left 17 dead.” They and their parents have scheduled meetings with Attorney General Pam Bondi, Senate President Joe Negron, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Democratic lawmakers from both the House and Senate, and they are hoping to arrange a meeting with Gov. Rick Scott.
TALLAHASSEE BOUND pic.twitter.com/C5855UYNpo
— Sarah Chadwick// #NEVERAGAIN (@sarahchad_) February 20, 2018
The students have begun to garner high-profile support. Actor George Clooney and his wife, international human rights attorney Amal Clooney, have pledged $500,000 to help sponsor the survivors in their lobbying efforts. Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw, Jeffrey and Marilyn Katzenberg, and Oprah Winfrey have joined in the pledge to help offset the costs of the March for Our Lives event in Washington, D.C., on March 24.
“Amal and I are so inspired by the courage and eloquence of these young men and women from Stoneman Douglas High School,” Clooney said in a statement. “Our family will be there on March 24 to stand side by side with this incredible generation of young people from all over the country, and in the name of our children Ella and Alexander, we’re donating 500,000 dollars to help pay for this groundbreaking event. Our children’s lives depend on it.”
Jaclyn Corin, the junior class president at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, told the Tampa Bay Times: “It really needs to be recognized that they [the legislators] need to stop fighting each other and start working together. This has to be the last school this happens to.”
Corin says she and her classmates want the state to ban assault weapons and make it more difficult for those with histories of mental illness to legally acquire weapons. “The NRA brainwashes us to think these rules and laws can’t work here,” she asserted. “We think they can. In what world would a civilian need an assault rifle? There’s no commonsense reason.”
The Tampa Bay Times continues:
Their demand for changes to Florida’s gun laws face steep odds in the state legislature, which has been more inclined to expand gun access than restrict it, even after the 2016 shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in which a deranged gunman left 49 people dead. Even after the shooting in Parkland, the Senate scheduled a hearing on a bill by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, to allow teachers to carry concealed weapons in the classroom.
Until last week, Corin said her priorities were organizing a car wash to raise funds for her class’s senior prom, a dance marathon scheduled for next weekend, and an Advanced Placement biology test that was supposed to be administered Friday.
“This all became so unimportant after this,” she said Sunday. Two of the victims she had seen and spoken to in the halls just moments before they died. “I saw these people in some of their last moments on earth. We want something good to come out of something so terrible.”
Now, she said, she and her fellow students are motivated by both anger and opportunity.
“We are starting at the state level and hopefully we will be able to reach the national level,” Corin said. “I really do think we will have a huge movement.”
However, on Tuesday the Florida House rejected a motion to take up a bill banning assault rifles. The New York Times reports:
State Representative Kionne McGhee, a Democrat from Miami, asked for an unusual procedural move to consider his legislation, which had been filed earlier in the session but was never scheduled for a hearing.
“The shooting in Parkland demands extraordinary action,” Mr. McGhee said Tuesday on the House floor, as a group of Stoneman Douglas High students, who had previously arrived, peered down from the gallery.
The motion failed, 36 to 71, in a vote along party lines. At least one student burst into tears, Mr. McGhee said. One girl covered her mouth in despair, as a woman patted her arm to comfort her. The episode lasted 2 minutes and 38 seconds.
A comparable proposal after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2017 was also rejected. Republicans in the Florida Legislature now say they would consider more modest proposals, such as raising the minimum age to buy assault rifles.