Dozens of students from across Florida descended on their state Capitol demanding action on gun control Thursday, a day when a deadly school shooting in California prompted panic, helplessness and determination.
Two students were killed and three others were wounded when a fellow student opened fire at a Santa Clarita, California, high school.
Aly Sheehy, a survivor of last year’s Parkland high school shooting that killed 17, found herself in disbelief at the news as she traveled to Tallahassee on a bus with other young activists. They joined a student-led rally called March for Our Lives, seeking to focus attention to gun control measures they want lawmakers to enact.
“My heart dropped,” said Sheehy, now a student at the University of Central Florida. “It took me back to the day when it happened at my school. All the chaos. All the panic, the fear. All those memories came back.”
The violence cast a pall over the Florida rally, as about 60 students spoke with determination to get lawmakers to act. Several of those lawmakers — all Democrats — used the rally to advocate for gun measures, including a ban on semi-automatic weapons. The measures, however, are likely to gain little traction in the Republican-dominated Legislature.
Since the Parkland shootings, activists prompted lawmakers to take action, including beefing up security at Florida schools and winning passage of so-called red flag laws — which allow authorities to take away firearms from anyone a judge agrees is a danger to others or himself.
In addition, the age requirement to purchase a gun in the state rose from 18 to 21.
But the students said more needs to be done.
The student activists delivered their demands to the governor’s office, including making it more difficult to acquire guns, establishing a task force to prevent gun violence and cutting the rate of gun deaths in half over the next decade.
“We want to show our representatives that our youth have power,” said Alyssa Ackbar, one of the leaders of the group. “We’re going to keep coming back.”