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Parkland students to march on Florida Capitol to demand changes to gun laws

People visit a makeshift memorial in front of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed on February 14, on February 18, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Police arrested 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz for killing 17 people at the high school.
People visit a makeshift memorial in front of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed on February 14, on February 18, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Police arrested 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz for killing 17 people at the high school.
Published Feb. 19, 2018

TALLAHASSEE

A hundred students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland will travel to Tallahassee for a march on the state Capitol on Wednesday in the first organized protest of their #NeverAgain movement.

Their demand: that 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 Broward County school shooting that killed 17 students and staff members.

"It really needs to be recognized that they need to stop fighting each other and starting working together," said Jaclyn Corin, 17, junior class president and a survivor of the shooting, who conceived of the idea for the two-day trip. "This has to be the last school this happens to."

The students and about 15 parent chaperones will travel to Tallahassee by bus on Tuesday in advance of small-group meetings with legislators that are planned Wednesday, and then return later that day. They leave after the Tuesday morning funeral of Carmen Schentrup, 16, who was killed when a former student killed students and teachers with an AR-15 on Wednesday. Nikolas Cruz, 19, has been charged with 17 counts of murder.

Corin said she and her classmates want the state to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. They also want to make it more difficult for people with histories of mental illness to legally access weapons.

"We emphasize the need for more attention to mental health. We know a lot of people, and politicians, would prefer that over gun control, but we want to emphasize both," Corin said. "We don't want to take away people's gun rights. This movement understands that people have that right under the Second Amendment, but we just want alterations and restriction."

Corin said students will start by asking legislators to review gun laws in other countries and reject the National Rifle Association's logic.

"The NRA brainwashes us to think these rules and laws can't work here," Corin said. "We think they can. In what world would a civilian need an assault rifle? There's no commonsense reason."

To sportsmen and those who say they need the weapons for self-defense, Corin says: "There's so many other guns they could use. We don't need guns in our community that can fire off 100 bullets in a matter of 10 minutes."

Cameron Kasky, another Stoneman Douglas High student who started the #NeverAgain movement, announced Sunday that on March 24, students are organizing rallies across the country to demand that lawmakers reject money from the NRA and say "never again."

"My message for people in office is: You're either with us or against us. We are losing our lives while the adults are playaing around," Kasky said on CNN's State of the Union. "We don't need you. On March 24, you are going to be seeing students in every single major city. We have our lives on the line here."

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Meanwhile, the White House schedule shows President Donald Trump will host students and teachers Wednesday in a listening session.

Some students who survived the Parkland shooting have focused their anger on the president, urging him and other elected officials to do something about gun violence.

Trump visited the community Friday, seeking out survivors at a hospital and meeting first responders. He has not been seen in public since.

From the privacy of his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Trump vented about the Russia investigation in 10 tweets.

He tweeted falsely, "I never said Russia did not meddle in the election." He blamed the Obama administration for doing "nothing" to stop the intrusion. He rebuked national security adviser H.R. McMaster for publicly acknowledging that the evidence of Russian interference was "incontrovertible."

And he held the FBI responsible for the Parkland school massacre. Trump tweeted that the bureau was committing so many resources to the Russia probe that it missed "all of the many signals" about the shooter.

Today, 17 Washington students plan a "lie-in" near the White House to advocate for tougher gun laws, but some lawmakers said it would take a powerful movement to motivate Congress.

"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," Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said on CBS's Face the Nation.

Information from Mary Ellen Klas of the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau, Associated Press and the Washington Post was used in this report.

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