Florida students plead with Congress: It’s about the guns

People visited a memorial Sunday for victims of the shooting rampage at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed last week.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
People visited a memorial Sunday for victims of the shooting rampage at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed last week.

WASHINGTON — Students of the Florida school where 17 people died said Sunday they will organize nationwide marches for gun control next month and try to create a ‘‘badge of shame’’ for politicians who take money from the National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups.

‘‘We are losing our lives while the adults are playing around,’’ Cameron Kasky said on CNN’s ‘‘State of the Union.’’

Kasky, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., has been part of an outpouring of anger from students who survived the shooting, many of whom have publicly blamed President Trump and NRA-supported politicians for creating the conditions that led to the shooting.


‘‘This is about us begging for our lives. This isn’t about the GOP. This isn’t about the Democrats. This is about us creating a badge of shame for any politicians accepting money from the NRA and using us as collateral,’’ Kasky said.

An NRA spokeswoman declined to comment.

Student Cameron Kasky spoke at a rally for gun control Sunday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Student Cameron Kasky spoke at a rally for gun control Sunday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Kasky and other students said they are organizing ‘‘March for Our Lives’’ rallies in Washington and major cities on March 24 to demand action on gun violence.

Organizers behind the Women’s March, an anti-Trump and female empowerment protest, called for a 17-minute walkout by students and teachers March 14 to protest Congress’s reluctance “to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.’’

Thousands of angry students, parents, and residents demanded stricter gun control laws on Saturday at a rally in Fort Lauderdale, which is about 20 miles from the site of the shooting in Parkland.


Another of the Florida survivors, Emma Gonzalez, said Sunday on ABC’s ‘‘This Week’’ that the students want to talk to political leaders, including Trump, about gun control. ‘‘We want to give them an opportunity to be on the right side of this,’’ she said.

The White House announced that Trump will hold a “listening session” with high school students and teachers to hear their grievances about school safety and gun violence, the Associated Press reported. Trump aides did not immediately say who will be attending.

The Florida students appeared on multiple Sunday morning political shows to discuss their views and goals in the wake of the shooting and made it clear they are going to pressure lawmakers up for election this year if they oppose their cause.

‘‘At this point, I don’t even know if the adults in power who are funded by the NRA, I don’t think we need them anymore because they are going to be gone by the midterm election,’’ Gonzalez said on CBS’s ‘‘Face the Nation.’’

‘‘There’s barely any time for them to save their skins, and if they don’t turn around right now and state their open support for this movement, they’re going to be left behind because you’re either with us or you’re against us at this point.’’


Another Parkland student, David Hogg, ripped Trump for suggesting in a tweet Saturday night that Democrats had let them down by failing to pass gun-control legislation when they held Congress.

‘We are losing our lives while the adults are playing around.’

— Cameron Kasky, survivor of Florida school massacre 

‘‘We’ve seen a government shutdown, we’ve seen tax reform, but nothing to save our children’s lives,’’ said Hogg. ‘‘Are you kidding me? You think now is the time to focus on the past and not the future to prevent the deaths of thousands of other children? You sicken me.’’

Trump tweeted Saturday night that it was ‘‘not acceptable’’ that the FBI failed to stop the Parkland shooting — arguing the agency was too focused on probing Russian interference in the 2016 election and should get ‘‘back to basics.’’

Carly Novell, a student who hid in a closet for two hours during the attack, responded angrily to the president: ‘‘You know what isn’t acceptable? Blaming everyone but the shooter and the lack of gun control in our country. You even blamed the students.”

“We did report him; we tried,” Novell said. “But how were we supposed to know what would happen? Your lack of sympathy proves how pitiful of a person you are.’’

Student Emma Gonzalez also spoke at the rally.

While the student activists repeatedly expressed optimism and hope for constructive conversations and changes to US gun laws, the politicians who appeared on Sunday’s shows expressed great skepticism.

Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, attended a prayer vigil Sunday at the First Church Coral Springs, a few blocks from the shooting site. He is expected to announce a legislative package on gun violence this week but has offered no details yet, the AP reported.

Several Parkland students said they would travel to the capital, Tallahassee, to meet lawmakers this week and press for gun control legislation.

Senator Christopher Coons, Democrat of Delaware, told CBS that he doubted anything will happen nationwide until voters force changes.

‘‘I am not optimistic that until there is real action by the American public to demand change in Congress that we’re going to see real action to confront gun violence out of this Congress.,’’ he said.

Senator Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, said the issue raised by the Florida shooting is that the FBI could have prevented the shooting and added he thought Congress ‘‘will get something done this year’’ on the gun background check system.

Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican, said the students ‘‘are absolutely right when they say that politicians have not been responding to any of this,’’ and he blamed congressional dysfunction.

Kasich, speaking on CNN, said gun rights advocates should consider ‘‘common-sense’’ regulations.

‘‘Would you feel as though your Second Amendment rights would be eroded because you couldn’t buy a goddarn AR-15?’’ he demanded. ‘‘These are things that have to be looked at, and action has to be taken.’’

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Kasich said he doubted Congress would take actions but said he held out hope that state and local legislatures might.

The Network for Public Education announced a ‘‘national day of action’’ on April 20, the anniversary of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, in which two students opened fire on their classmates, killing 12 students and one teacher.

‘‘The politicians sit on their hands as our children and their teachers are murdered in their schools,’’ Diane Ravitch, the group’s president, and Carol Burris, its executive director, said in a post online.

‘‘We need to make this moment a movement and to actually make changes that need to happen in this country so that these kinds of weapons, AR-15s, are not in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them,’’ said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.