Dozens of teenaged survivors of the second deadliest public school shooting in U.S. history on Wednesday marched on Florida’s capital to ask lawmakers to ban sales of assault rifles.
The teenagers said such rifles that should be banned include the type used in killing the 17 students and educators on Feb. 14.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, became the latest school targeted by a gunman using a semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle, which heated up the nation’s long-running debate about gun rights and public safety.
Dressed in jeans and T-shirts and carrying signs with the slogan “#Neveragain,” survivors of the Feb. 14 mass shooting met with lawmakers in Tallahassee to ask for stricter controls on gun sales.
Investigators said the assault was carried out by 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz, who purchased an AR-15 nearly a year ago.
Police have charged Cruz, who had been kicked out of Douglas for disciplinary problems, with 17 counts of premeditated murder.
“We want to see some common sense gun laws so this will never happen again,” Rachel Padnis, a 16-year-old sophomore from the school near Fort Lauderdale said.
She and classmates said they were dismayed but undeterred by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature’s Tuesday rebuff of a bid to bring up a bill to block sales of assault rifles.
President Donald Trump, a strong supporter of gun rights, was due to meet with parents, students and teachers who have been victims of gun violence, including those affected by the Valentine’s Day shooting in Florida.
The White House meeting comes a day after Trump said his administration would take steps to ban bump stocks, an accessory that enables a rifle to shoot hundreds of rounds a minute.
A spokeswoman said the administration was open to the idea of setting national age limits on sales of assault rifles.
Florida state Senator Bill Galvan, slated to be the upper chamber’s next president, has called for a bill to raise the legal age for purchasing assault rifles from 18 to 21, the same as it is for handguns.
At the Florida capital in Tallahassee, dozens of students packed into a meeting room and peppered Senate President Joe Negron, a Republican, with questions about why individuals should have continued access to assault rifles.
Negron declined to say whether he would support any specific gun control measures, saying, “That’s an issue we’re going to look at as we work to develop legislation.”
Trump generally favours a Senate bill on background checks, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday.
Calls for national student walk-outs and marches in the coming months have gained steam on social media, including the “March for Our Lives” on March 24 in Washington, spearheaded by Douglas students.
Gun violence on public school and college campuses has become so commonplace in the United States in the last several years that administrators regularly stage drills to train students and staff in the event of a mass shooting.