Cheers, Boos and Tense Exchanges on Day of Confrontation over Guns
NATIONWIDE-- From the nation's capital to the hallways of the Florida capital, parents and students confronted lawmakers Wednesday to demand gun reform after a massacre at a high school in Parkland.
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a gunman killed 17 people last week, are leading calls to demand a change in gun laws.
In Washington, those affected by mass shootings shared stories of loss and heartbreak during a meeting with President Donald Trump. Hundreds of miles away, at a town hall hosted by CNN in Florida, student survivors and parents who lost their children last week defiantly questioned lawmakers and a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association.
The words of Stoneman Douglas students who survived the shooting echoed through the hallways of the state Capitol in Tallahassee, where they called for a ban on weapons like the one used to kill their friends and teachers.
As the debate over gun reform continues, Trump plans to meet with state and local officials Thursday to discuss school safety.
Many questions, few answers
At the town hall in Sunrise, students and parents were angry and frustrated, and they wanted answers.
They questioned the NRA's spokeswoman, and Sens. Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson and Rep. Ted Deutch during the event Wednesday night.
"Why do we have to speak out at the (state) Capitol? Why do we have to march on Washington, just to save innocent lives?" senior Ryan Deitsch asked, his voice rising with each question.
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter, Jaime, was killed last week, had harsh words for Rubio, a Republican from Florida.
"Sen. Rubio, I want to like you. Here's the problem. ... Your comments this week and those of our President have been pathetically weak," he said to cheers.
Students and parents put Rubio in the hot seat, asking him the majority of the questions.
Cameron Kasky, a junior who survived the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School, asked Rubio to turn down campaign contributions from the NRA.
Rubio said he supports the Second Amendment, but he also stood for school safety. He did not say whether he would turn down an NRA contribution.
NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch was asked what the group was doing to prevent more school shootings. She said states should hand over information on people who shouldn't own guns to a national background check system.
"I don't believe this insane monster should have ever been able to obtain a firearm," Loesch said.
Loesch said the system to buy firearms is flawed as some in the crowd yelled, "You're a murderer."
Avery Anger, 14, hid in a closet during the shooting. She said she's unsure whether the town hall answered her questions.
"It was more of a debate than a discussion," she said. She entered the town hall with one question -- "is it going to be safe for me to go back to school?"
"I don't feel like they answered the question," she said.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School parent Meredith Barry said she was dissatisfied with the "grandstanding" from lawmakers.
"No one answered 'yes' or 'no' to anything and that's all these students want to know -- will it be safe for them to go back to school?" she said.
'Never, ever will I see my kid'
In Washington, survivors and those affected by mass shootings gathered to talk to Trump at the White House.
Andrew Pollack, whose daughter was one of the 17 people killed in the Parkland shooting, said it's time for action.
"Never, ever will I see my kid. I want it to sink in. It's eternity. My beautiful daughter, I'm never going to see again," Pollack said.
"How many schools, how many children have to get shot? It stops here with this administration and me. I'm not going to sleep until it is fixed. And Mr. President, we'll fix it."
Trump suggested that part of the solution to preventing school shootings is having armed, trained teachers on campus.
None of the politicians at the town hall agreed with him.
"I think it is a terrible idea," said Nelson, a Democrat.
The event at the White House included survivors from Stoneman Douglas, and families affected by the shootings at Columbine High School and Sandy Hook Elementary School.
'We're angry ... we want change'
In Tallahassee, Stoneman Douglas students who survived the shooting gathered to demand gun reform. They warned politicians they'll vote out lawmakers who vote against the measure.
"We're angry, we're pissed, we're ready for action," said Spencer Blum, who survived the school shooting last week. "We want change, we're gonna get change."
Stoneman Douglas students said they left the state Capitol feeling hopeful and encouraged by the lawmakers and activists who addressed them. But they were disappointed by the lack of commitment.
"You need to change something before your daughters are the victims," sophomore Bailey Feuerman told Gov. Rick Scott.
Stoneman Douglas student Delaney Tarr said she wants action, not just words.
"We've had enough thoughts and prayers," she said.
As students rallied outside the Capitol, thousands of teens from across the state walked out in support. In a sign of solidarity nationwide, students in Washington, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Colorado and Illinois walked out of class to demand gun reform as well.
It's not yet clear what effect Wednesday will have on legislation. The teens suffered a blow Tuesday, when state lawmakers voted 71-36 against a measure to consider a ban on semiautomatic weapons.