Students from Marjory Douglas Tillman high school – the location of the Feb 14th school shooting that left 17 dead and more than a dozen wounded – traveled to Tallahassee, the capitol of Florida, for a rally in support of a ban on automatic weapons like the AR-15 rifle that shooter Nikolas Cruz purchased legally and used to carry out his murderous spree, per Reuters.
But as celebrities like George Clooney and Oprah Winfrey make financial pledges to support the movement, elsewhere in Florida, the push for an assault weapons ban has effectively stalled after local Republican lawmakers have already blocked one such bill. In fact, Florida’s legislature has taken up at least two bills during its current session intended to provide broader access to guns.
But signaling a possible shift, state Senator Bill Galvan, the chamber’s next president, called for a bill to raise the legal age limit for purchasing assault rifles from 18 to 21, the same as it is for handguns. The legislature’s current session ends on March 9, leaving little time for a vote.
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Last week’s shooting appears to have spawned a national movement of students marching for stricter gun control laws. Students are planning national walkouts next month, and are also trying to organize a meeting with President Donald Trump.
So far, the event that has generated the most interest is being called the “March for Our Lives” and is slated for March 24 in Washington, D.C., spearheaded by some Parkland students.
“We’re here to make sure this never happens again,” Diego Pfeiffer, a senior at Stoneman, told a crowd that included hundreds of students from a Tallahassee high school on Tuesday after arriving at the capital.
Per Reuters, a Washington Postal News opinion poll released on Tuesday showed 77% of Americans believe the Republican-dominated US Congress is doing too little to prevent mass shootings, while 62% say President Trump hasn’t done enough on that front.
Students and parents elsewhere in Florida and in other states, including Tennessee and Minnesota, staged sympathy protests on Tuesday. Miami’s WTVJ-TV showed video of about 1,000 teens and adults marching from a high school in Boca Raton to the site of the Parkland shooting, about 12 miles (20 km) to the west.
Gun violence on public school and college campuses has become so common in the United States – indeed, most school shootings barely break into the national news – during the past several years that education officials regularly stage drills to train students and staff about what they should do in the event of a mass shooting on school grounds.
Separately, as reported last night, it has emerged that even Florida’s teachers’ pension funds was invested in the company that manufactures the weapon that Cruz used during his shooting spree.
Meanwhile, as Bloomberg reported this morning, it was business as usual at a Miami gun show just days after the shooting:
Three-in-10 American adults own a gun, and three-quarters of them think that doing so is fundamental to their sense of freedom, according to a 2017 Pew poll. This engrained culture of gun rights was on display over the weekend, where it was business as usual at a Miami-area gun show. Merchants displayed hunting knives, tactical gear, and semiautomatic assault rifles, including the same AR-15 model used by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, just an hour north, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in neighboring Broward County. At the Miami weapons bazaar, parents pushed babies up and down aisles of carefully stacked magazines and ammo; older children played with toy firearms.
Gun shows are a staple in the American firearms community, with several thousand held annually. Gun control activists have called for closing the “gun show loophole,” which allows some gun sellers to perform a transaction without running a background check on the buyer. According to data collected by Pew, the majority of gun owners, 77 percent, advocate ending the loophole, but a proposed bill to do just that found little traction in Congress when it was introduced last March.
Indeed, the state of gun control legislation appears to be divorced from public sentiment. According to the Pew poll, among gun owners, 89 percent support a proposal that would prevent the mentally ill from purchasing a gun, 82 percent support barring those on the no-fly list from buying guns, 54 percent support a federal gun sales database, and 48 percent support a ban on assault-style weapons such as AR-15s. These measures, though, often dissipate in the legislation process. Congress, which promised a bipartisan bump stock ban after the device was used in the Las Vegas shooting, failed to deliver. On Tuesday, Trump signaled a willingness to consider a bump stock ban, directing his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to draft rules prohibiting the accessories.
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In response to last week’s tragedy, earlier this week, President Trump directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to write up a memorandum banning bump-stock sales after the device was famously used by the Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock, to massacre dozens of people at a country music festival back in October.
And the president probably surprised millions of members of his base late last night when he tweeted his support for the bipartisan bill – first introduced late last year – to strengthen the system used for federal background checks.
Whether we are Republican or Democrat, we must now focus on strengthening Background Checks!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2018
As a reminder, a federal ban on assault weapons, in force for 10 years, expired in 2004. Given the series of high-profile mass shootings that we’ve witnessed in recent weeks, the national gun control movement has gained a newfound momentum not seen since Sandy Hook. The question however remains: despite the president’s assurances, will anything actually change?