fb-pixel Skip to main content

Key moments from Wednesday’s town hall in Florida

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez comforts a classmate during a CNN town hall meeting on Wednesday.Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via Associated Press

Students, teachers, parents, and community members gathered at CNN’s “Stand Up” town hall Wednesday night to confront US Senator Marco Rubio about taking stronger stances on gun violence.

Throughout the evening, the Florida Republican laid out the changes he does — and does not — want to see, telling the crowd at one point that gun violence “cannot be solved by gun laws alone.”

Rubio told the audience that he does not support arming teachers in classrooms, but that he would support laws that get rid of bump stocks, raise the age of buying a rifle, and change the system for background checks.


Here are a few key moments from Wednesday night’s town hall:

“Senator Rubio, will you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA?”

The question came from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Cameron Kasky, who attempted to quiet the crowd’s shouts and boos as Rubio answered him.

Rubio gave a multi-faceted answer at first and then ultimately wrapped it up: “You can ask that question, and I can tell you that people buy into my agenda. I will answer any questions that you guys have about any policy... I just think that ultimately that is not our goal here. Our goal here is to move forward and prevent these from ever happening again.”

“In the name of 17 people, you cannot ask the NRA to keep their money out of your campaign?” Kasky asked.

“I think in the name of 17 people, I can pledge to you that I will support any law that will prevent a killer like this getting a gun,” Rubio responded.

NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch was quizzed by an AP World History teacher — and then booed when she left

Loesch, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, fielded questions from parents and teachers Wednesday night, including one question from an AP World History teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The teacher told Loesch she had a history-style question for her.


“I ask my students to define terms for me, so I’d like you to define something for me because I’ve wondered about it and I want to know: What is your definition of a ‘well-regulated militia,’ as stated in the Second Amendment? And using supporting detail,” the teacher added to the audience’s applause and chuckles, “explain to me how an 18-year-old with a military rifle is well-regulated. And the world, our country, our nation, is going to grade your answer.”

Loesch said the founders intended the militia at the time to be an American man or woman who “could operate and service their firearm.”

The teacher was less than satisfied with the answer.

Reiterating her question, she asked Loesch again: “That was in the context of the time. How, now, is an 18-year-old with a military assault rifle well-regulated? Use supporting detail.”

Loesch told the audience it’s not a loophole, but a criminal act that the community needs to start paying attention to.

“We have to start, number one, following up on red flags,” she said.

Later in the evening, when Loesch left the stage, the crowd loudly booed her, shouting and gesturing to her as she walked away.

Loesch, NRA spokeswoman, almost agreed with Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel — until he called “BS” on her beliefs

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, a Democrat, laid out a variety of changes that he sees as necessary to make the country safer and minimize gun violence:

1. Build schools to be more difficult to penetrate.

2. Empower law enforcement agencies to take guns away from people who are a threat to themselves or others.


“Yes,” Loesch said in agreement, as Israel continued explaining his second point, and then starts to cut him off, “And—”

“—but lastly,” Israel continued, “we do need to have some gun control reform. Eighteen-year-olds should never have a rifle. An 18-year-old kid should not have a rifle. Eighteen-year-old kid, they’re not adults yet. They’re in high school. These kids should not have a rifle. Bump stocks should be illegal, they should be outlawed forever. Automatic rifles should be outlawed forever. And anybody who says different, I don’t know about other people, but Emma [Gonzalez] and I, we’re calling BS on that.”

Students perform “Shine,” a song written by survivors of the shooting

At the end of the town hall, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students performed a song called “Shine” that was written by survivors of the shooting.

“You, you ruined this town. You burned all of the bridges, and you slowly let us drown,” one student sang.

“But you’re not going to knock us down. We’ll get back up again. You may have hurt us, but I promise we are stronger, and we’re not gonna let you in. We’re putting up a fight. You may have brought the dark, but together we will shine the light,” another student sang.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Felicia Gans can be reached at felicia.gans@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.