Florida Students Press for Gun Law Change

    20 February, 2018

    Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are pressuring state lawmakers in Florida to consider gun control laws. The move comes after 17 students and teachers were killed in last week's shooting.

    The students have organized a demonstration for Wednesday in the state capital of Tallahassee to put pressure on the Republican-controlled legislature.

    "I really think they are going to hear us out," said Chris Grady, a senior who plans to attend the demonstration. He said he hopes the trip will lead to some "commonsense gun laws like rigorous background checks." Background checks are short investigations of people who seek to buy weapons.

    Chris Grady, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, sits by a memorial outside the school, for Wednesday's mass shooting, in Parkland, Fla., Monday, Feb. 19, 2018.
    Chris Grady, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, sits by a memorial outside the school, for Wednesday's mass shooting, in Parkland, Fla., Monday, Feb. 19, 2018.

    Shortly after the shooting, several legislators visited the school to see the damage. They appeared shaken afterward.

    Some Republican Party lawmakers said Monday that they would consider new gun laws. However, there is still strong resistance by many Republicans to any gun control measures.

    Senator Bill Galvano is a Republican and the incoming Florida senate president. He said the Florida Senate was considering several measures, including raising the age to buy guns to 21. He also said it was considering a waiting period for gun purchases, creation of gun violence restraining orders, and banning bump stocks. These are devices that permit much quicker repeat firing of a rifle.

    Officials said Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old suspect in last week shooting, had shown warning signs of psychological problems that could lead to violence. Last year, he legally purchased the semi-automatic rifle he used in last week's attack.

    The Senate also is considering increasing spending for mental health programs in schools and giving police greater powers to detain someone considered a danger to themselves. The Senate will also look at a proposal to deputize a teacher or someone else at school to permit gun possession.

    Still, some Republicans questioned whether additional gun restrictions are the answer.

    Republican Senator Dennis Baxley said, "I really don't want to see this politicized into a gun debate." He added, "We have a terrible problem with obesity, but we're not banning forks and spoons."

    Democrats believe raising the age limit and creating a waiting period to buy rifles is not enough.

    Democratic Senator Gary Farmer called such proposals a "joke." He said, "I don't see that as a restriction. It never should have been that an 18-year-old could buy an assault weapon. No Floridians should be able to buy an assault weapon."

    U.S. federal law permits those 18 and over to buy rifles. Cruz passed the required investigations to buy the AR-15 he used in the attack as well as at least six other rifles.

    Since the attack, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have become increasingly vocal about their demands for gun control measures.

    Many are publicly naming the politicians who take financial support from the National Rifle Association. Some criticized President Donald Trump for blaming Democrats. The critics say Trump has taken no action.

    Trump announced on Tuesday that he has directed the U.S. attorney general to create rules that would ban bump stocks.

    The high school students are also calling for anti-gun violence demonstrations on March 24 in Washington, D.C. and other cities.

    The Associated Press reported this story. Hai Do adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    rigorous - adj. very strict and demanding

    fork and spoon - n. eating tools used to pick up food

    vocal - adj. expressing opinions in a public and forceful way