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Bill Nelson Tells Student Marchers Change Will Only Happen At Polls

Steve Newborn
WUSF Public Media
Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor, left, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson address the group of school students and administrators

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor spoke at a forum of high school students and school board members in Tampa Monday. He told the students to keep on demonstrating for gun control -- but be prepared if little happens.

Sen. Nelson called the meeting at the Hillsborough School Board offices to hear from students who attended Saturday's marches on gun violence and school safety.

Nelson ticked off the list of shootings: Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Las Vegas shootings; the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, and told the students nothing happened on gun control - until now.

"I think it is a part of this continuum of us seeing people rise up to take leadership - as you have, in the body politic," he said. "I think it's going to have a reaction in the November elections."

The answer, he said, is for students to become politically active, go to the polls and vote for change.

One of those students, Macie Lavender, a senior at Tampa's Plant High School and one of the organizers of Saturday's Tampa march, said it has to be taken into consideration that almost all the shooters in schools are white males.

"White males are the ones creating these mass acts of violence. I think it's time to address the culture around us that is basically creating these kinds of mass shooters," she said. "And I don't think it's fair to us to just address this as a mental health issue, when it's so complex."

But Nelson reiterated his point that gun advocates, such as the National Rifle Association, have so much clout with politicians that he expects little to change right now.

"I'm sad to say that I think it's going to be limited ability to get things passed until some folks are changes at elections," he said.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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