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Florida School Shooting Survivors Deliver Message to Lawmakers: Enough Is Enough

Fueled by grief and anger over the killing of 17 people at their Florida high school, the students have a message for lawmakers: Enough is enough.

Florida school shooting survivors march on the state Capitol on Feb. 21, 2018. (Credit: CNN)

Florida students march on the state Capitol on Feb. 21, 2018. (Credit: CNN)

In the days following the massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland a week ago, students have turned into activists, protesting and making social media appeals to state officials to demand gun reform.

Under the rallying cry of #NeverAgain, dozens of students and staff who survived the shooting will gather again Wednesday in front of the state Capitol in Tallahassee to continue their appeal for stricter gun laws.

"We're fighting for the friends we lost. We're fighting for the future kids that we're going to have, and that's why we're marching and that's why we're here talking to our senators and our representatives," said Sofie Whitney, one of dozens of Stoneman Douglas students who traveled 450 miles away to Tallahassee.

Chris Grady, 19, a senior at the high school, said the message to lawmakers is simple.

"If you're not with us, you're against us," he said. "And you're against saving the lives of innocent children and we are going to be voting you out."

The students will hold various rallies in Tallahassee and hold a news conference with Sen. Lauren Book, a Democrat from Florida.

'That's unacceptable'

Their calls for change suffered a major setback Tuesday.

Less than a week after the shooting, the Florida state House voted down a motion to consider a bill that would ban assault rifles, essentially killing the measure for this year.

The 36-71 vote in the Republican-dominated body left some students in tears.

House Rep. Kionne McGhee of Miami had requested that HB 219 -- which would ban AR-15 rifles and other guns defined as "assault weapons" and large capacity magazines -- be moved from committee to the House floor for questions, debate and a vote.

"It was just so heartbreaking to see how many (voters') names were up there, especially after it was my school," said Sheryl Acquaroli, 16, a junior at Stoneman Douglas.

"It seemed almost heartless how they immediately pushed the button to say no."

Stoneman Douglas students in the gallery during the vote were stunned.

"That's unacceptable," student Spencer Blum said of the vote. "It shows that they don't care about us."

Kyle Kashuv, 16, a Stoneman Douglas student, identifies as a Republican and a conservative. He said he has always been pro-guns, but looks at things differently since the shooting.

"We have such a limited government that should not be totally reliant on ... the police, we should be able defend ourselves as citizens," he said. "I still totally believe that but I think that there should be a limit to who could acquire such weaponry."

He said some people should not have access to guns.

"If you're not of the right mindset, you're not mentally stable, then you should not be able to acquire that," he said.

Governor working on proposal

Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott held a roundtable on school safety Tuesday, and planned to have a proposal by Friday.

"I am bringing local and state leaders together to find solutions on how to prevent violence in our schools and keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill individuals," he said. " This is an urgent matter that we must address quickly."

In Boca Raton, about 1,500 students walked out of a high school Tuesday in solidarity with shooting survivors. Hundreds of the students trekked to Stoneman Douglas High about 10 miles away. "They can change the world, and we can only go with them," said Darren Levin, a teacher at the school.

The debate on gun control is not limited to Florida.

President Donald Trump is expected to hold a listening session with students and teachers, but the impact of those conversations remains unclear.

Over the weekend, Sen. James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma, said guns weren't the problem as much as who is able to get a gun.

"The problem is not owning an AR-15, it's the person that owns it. Again, you not go back to the how of what particular weapon is chosen, it's the why," Lankford said on NBC's "Meet the Press. "I have individuals in my neighborhood that own an AR-15. That doesn't make it a dangerous neighborhood or them dangerous individuals. It's the individual themself (that becomes) the issue, not the weapon that they're holding."

As the Florida students rally for change, their community will say goodbye Wednesday to two of the 17 victims killed last week.

Chris Hixon, an athletic director who also served as the school's wrestling coach, will be laid to rest Wednesday.

A visitation is planned for Aaron Feis, an assistant football coach killed when he threw himself in front of students to protect them from oncoming bullets.