Students: 1 million expected at anti-gun-violence marches
NEW YORK (AP) — Students from the Florida high school where 17 people were fatally shot last month expect more than 1 million participants in upcoming marches in Washington and elsewhere calling for gun regulations, students said Monday.
More than 800 March for Our Lives demonstrations are planned around the world Saturday, sparked by the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida.
“It just shows that the youth are tired of being the generation where we’re locked in closets and waiting for police to come in case of a shooter,” Alex Wind, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, told The Associated Press.
“We’re sick and tired of having to live with this normalcy of turning on the news and watching a mass shooting,” he added.
Since the massacre, Stoneman Douglas students have been at the forefront of a push to tighten gun restrictions and protect schools.
They have led rallies and lobbied lawmakers in Washington and Florida’s capital, Tallahassee. Last Wednesday, tens of thousands of students around the U.S. walked out of their classrooms to demand action on gun violence and school safety. Stoneman Douglas students fanned out Monday to discuss the marches with media outlets in New York, including NBC’s “Today” show and “CBS This Morning.”
The National Rifle Association didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry Monday about the upcoming marches. The group has said any effort to prevent future school shootings needs to “keep guns out of the hands of those who are a danger to themselves or others, while protecting the rights of law-abiding Americans.”
Amid the wave of activism, Florida passed a law curbing young peoples’ access to rifles; the NRA has sued to try to block it. Some major U.S. retailers decided to curb the sale of assault-style rifles or stop selling firearms to people younger than 21.
But Congress has shown little appetite for new gun regulations. President Donald Trump at one point proposed raising the minimum age for buying an assault rifle to 21 but then backed off, citing a lack of political support.
The Republican president has since released a school safety plan that includes strengthening the federal background check system and helping states pay for firearms training for teachers, while assigning the buying-age issue to a commission to study.
A petition associated with Saturday’s march calls for banning sales of assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as tightening background checks.
The suspect in the Parkland shooting, 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz, used an AR-15 assault-style rifle, according to authorities. His lawyer has said Cruz will plead guilty in return for a life prison sentence, rather than possibly facing the death penalty.
The Associated Press reported Sunday that documents show some officials recommended in September 2016 that Cruz be involuntarily committed for a mental evaluation, though the recommendation was never acted upon. Such a commitment would have made it more difficult, if not impossible, for Cruz to get a gun legally.
Beyond making a statement, Saturday’s marches aim to make political change by registering and mobilizing people to vote.
But the students insist their aim isn’t partisan: “We’re just trying to make sure that morally just people are running this country,” Stoneman Douglas senior Ryan Deitsch told the AP.
As soon-to-be voters, the students say they’re here to stay in the public debate.
“We are not just a presence on Twitter. We are not just some social media fad. We’re not like Tide Pods,” Deitsch said, referring to the laundry detergent packets that recently sparked a dangerous social-media-fueled trend of teenagers eating them.
“We’re trying to push this idea that we have a voice, that people can speak out, and that that voice should be heard,” Deitsch said.