PARKLAND/TALLAHASSEE, Fla: - Dozens of students and parents from the Florida high school where 17 teens and staff members were slain last week in a shooting rampage arrived in the state capital of Tallahassee on Tuesday to lobby for a ban on assault-style rifles.
Last week’s massacre, the second-deadliest shooting at a public school in U.S. history, has inflamed a national debate about gun rights and prompted young people from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and across the United States to demand action for stricter firearms controls.
Students from the South Florida high school were tearful as they stepped down from the bus in Tallahassee to be welcomed with waves, cheers and somber applause from fellow teens.
“We’re here to make sure this never happens again,” Diego Pfeiffer a senior at Stoneman told the crowd that included hundreds of students from a Tallahassee high school over a crackling microphone.
On Tuesday, less than a week after the shooting, the Republican-controlled Florida House of Representatives rebuffed a bid to bring up a bill to block sales of assault-style rifles in the state.
“I am not going back to school until lawmakers, and the president, change this law,” said Tyra Hemans, a 19-year-old senior, who traveled to the state capital.
“Three people I looked to for advice and courage are gone but never forgotten, and for them, I am going to our state capital to tell lawmakers we are tired and exhausted of stupid gun laws,” Hemans said.
Student and parent activists from the high school in Parkland, Florida, near Fort Lauderdale were expected to stage a rally on Wednesday at the statehouse on Wednesday, about 450 miles (725 km) to the north of the school.
Fourteen students and three educators were killed and 15 other people were wounded in the Feb. 14 attack.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student expelled from Stoneman Douglas High for disciplinary problems, was arrested and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. Authorities say he was armed with a semiautomatic AR-15 assault-style rifle that he legally purchased from a licensed gun dealer last year, when he was 18.
Former classmates have described Cruz as a social outcast and trouble-maker with a fascination for guns, and police have acknowledged responding to numerous calls related to Cruz during the past few years.
On Tuesday a member of the accused gunman’s legal team from the Broward County public defender’s office said Cruz saw his life unravel last year, when he was expelled and his mother died.