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“We may be too young to vote, but soon we will be able to vote and we will vote you out!”
by Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams
The steps of the Florida State Capitol building were crowded with thousands of students, teachers, parents, and advocates on Wednesday as survivors of last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School led a rally to demand gun control reforms including a ban on military-style firearms.
An estimated 3,000 people attended the rally, with many students traveling 450 miles from Parkland, where Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people and injured 14.
The crowd chanted “Never again!” and “Shame on you!”—directing their anger at Florida lawmakers who on Tuesday voted against a motion to consider a military-style firearm ban for guns like the AR-15 that was used in Parkland as well as a number of other mass shootings in recent years.
“To shoot down a bill like that is absolutely abhorrent, to not even give it a chance to be discussed,” said Delaney Tarr, one of the Parkland survivors, who spoke at the rally. “That disgusts me and it disgusts my peers, because we know what we’ve been through and we know that this needs to be changed…To every lawmaker out there: you can no longer take money from the NRA…We are coming after every single one of you and demanding that you take action, demanding that you make a change.”
“We are out here advocating for change because of this Capitol’s failure to do their primary job by keeping us safe,” said Florence Yared, one of the students from Parkland. “Some of you said, ‘It’s too soon to talk about gun control.’ No, it is not too soon, no it is not the wrong time, there’s no better time than now to talk about gun control. If we wait, someone else might become a victim too. Your children might become victims too!”
Ahead of the rally, Parkland students marched to the office of Republican Governor Rick Scott, chanting, “You work for us!” Scott was attending the funeral of one of the Parkland victims, but the students spoke with some of the legislators who had voted on Tuesday about proposals including raising the minimum age to purchase military-style semi-automatic weapons.
Tarr expressed anger regarding the meetings, where she said representatives were dismissive of the students’ demands.
“We are not here to be patted on the back,” Tarr said. “We know what we want. We want gun reform, we want common sense gun laws, we want stronger mental health checks and background checks to work in conjunction. We want a better age limit. We want privatized selling to be completely reformed so you can’t just walk into a building with $130 and walk out with an AR-15.”
As the rally was underway, students in towns across Florida and in other states including Iowa and Pennsylvania, as well as Washington, D.C., staged walkouts in solidarity with Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In Iowa City, teenagers marched in the rain chanting, “Enough is enough!” and “Keep your coins, we want change!”
“To Congress: you are responsible to every community that has lost due to gun violence and you have the power to change this,” said Yared. “And if you don’t, then we will change you. We may be too young to vote, but soon we will be able to vote and we will vote you out!”