Parkland: the aftermath

DENAE RABINETTE

On February 14, 2018, former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Nikolas Cruz opened fire on his classmates with an AR-15 assault rifle. Seventeen people were killed in the shooting. In the wake of the terrible tragedy, the survivors from the Florida high school have started a nationwide movement to end gun violence. The “#NeverAgain” movement has rallied protests around the country, sparked a historic CNN Town Hall and has forced lawmakers in Tallahassee and Washington to listen and make changes.

Just hours after the shooting, survivors were turning to the media to get their message out. Students from Stoneman Douglas have been featured on television shows like “Dr. Phil” and “Ellen.” Then, at the groundbreaking CNN Town Hall, students faced off with Florida’s Republican senator Marco Rubio and a representative from the National Rifle Association.

During the town hall, Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter in the shooting, stood with a microphone and told Senator Rubio that his comments about the shooting and those from President Trump were “pathetically weak.” The crowd erupted in a standing ovation at the father’s words. President Trump had been invited to attend the meeting in Sunrise, Florida but he declined the offer from CNN. Guttenberg then went on to tell Rubio, “Look at me and tell me that guns were the factor in the hunting of our kids… and you will work with us to do something about guns.”

On March 14, thousands of high school students across the country walked out of their classrooms in a nationwide protest against gun violence and a show of solidarity with victims of school shootings. Many students involved called upon lawmakers to push for stricter gun control legislation.

In response to the overwhelming media coverage, Wal-Mart and Dick’s Sporting Goods stores quickly released statements saying that they would immediately stop selling assault-style weapons and that they would raise the minimum age to purchase a firearm in all of their stores.

The Tampa Bay times reported that in less than three weeks following the shooting, Florida lawmakers made history by voting against the wishes of the NRA with the first vote on gun control in 22 years. The age to purchase a rifle was raised from 18 to 21, the waiting period on all firearm purchases was extended and bump stocks were banned completely in the state. Florida Governor Rick Scott also signed $400 million into the state’s budget in order to address school safety and mental health. “You’ve been working the halls of the capitol for days. You’ve impressed all of us,” Governor Scott said to the Stoneman Douglas students protesting in Tallahassee. “Thank you – for having the strength to fight, while you grieve.”

Not much action has been taken in Washington, however. The Trump administration has taken the first steps in banning bump stocks across the country, which modify semi-automatic weapons and allow them to operate as automatic. Bump stocks were used in the Las Vegas massacre that killed 58 people last year, but were not used during the shooting in Parkland. President Trump has also proposed measures that include arming school teachers and faculty, but has not taken any further steps toward real changes in gun legislation.

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