The pitch for stricter gun control by angry students has been continuing unabated in the US since the tragic shooting at a Florida high school on 14 February, which claimed the lives of 17 teens and staff members.
Students and parent activists from the school would now be holding a rally on Wednesday, 21 February, at Florida’s state capital Tallahassee, calling for a ban on assault-style rifles, reported Reuters.
A day before, on Tuesday, students and parents elsewhere in Florida and in other states, staged sympathy protests, according to local media reports.
A "March for Our Lives" is also set to be held in Washington on 24 March in support of gun control. The much-anticipated march will be attended by likes of George Clooney and his wife, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.
Last week's massacre, the second-deadliest shooting at a public school in US 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.
A 19-year-old former student of the school, Nikolas Cruz, has been accused of the murders. Cruz's history of violence in school and disturbing social media posts would have allowed authorities to prevent him from legally obtaining a firearm in California and Connecticut, which have gun violence restraining order (GVRO) statutes, experts told Reuters.
‘Tired and Exhausted of Stupid Gun Laws’
"We're here to make sure this never happens again," Diego Pfeiffer a senior at Stoneman told the crowd in Tallahassee that included hundreds of students from a Tallahassee high school over a crackling microphone.
I am not going back to school until lawmakers, and the president, change this law. 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.Tyra Hemans, a 19-year-old senior
The anguished mother of 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff, who died in the Florida school shooting, went on national television to urge US President Donald Trump to "do something" to protect schoolchildren from gun violence, Reuters reported. Screaming in grief and fighting back tears, Alyssa’s mother told CNN:
President Trump, you say what can you do? You can stop the guns from getting into these children’s hands. Put metal detectors at every entrance to the schools. President Trump, please do something.Alyssa Alhadeff’s mother
Big Names Join the Backlash
The youth-led protest movement that erupted within hours of the shooting has attracted prominent celebrity supporters, such as film star George Clooney and his wife Amal, a human rights lawyer, who said they would donate $500,000 to help fund the planned 24 March gun control march in Washington.
Hollywood director Steven Spielberg and media mogul Oprah Winfrey later joined in, contributing $500,000 each.
Americans have come out on social media to express alarm over the lack of gun control in the country, including former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
Trump said on Tuesday, 20 February, that he had signed a memorandum directing the attorney general to draw up regulations banning devices that turn firearms into machine guns, like the bump stock used in October’s mass shooting in Las Vegas.
Student Survivors Pull No Punches
Emma Gonzalez, part of a group of students survivors which started a movement against mass shootings, @NeverAgainMSD, has emerged as one of the most prominent faces of the campaign in the media.
NRA in the Crosshairs... for a Change
Americans have also vented their anger at the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Republican politicians who have allegedly taken NRA lobbyists’ money to stifle gun control.
Student Protests Attract the Ire of American Right
The protests by the students in the aftermath of the shooting has attracted the ire of the American right. According to a New York Times report, the students have been labelled as "crisis actors", pawns and ‘conspiracists’ – being manipulated by Democrats and anti-Trump forces – by various right-wing outlets, including web portal ‘The Gateway Pundit’, as well as the well-known conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of Infowars fame.
Gun ownership is protected by the Second Amendment of the US Constitution and remains one of the nation's most divisive issues. A federal ban on assault weapons, in force for 10 years, expired in 2004.
The National Rifle Association and other groups have opposed gun control laws as violating gun owners' due process rights.
But will the backlash, this time spearheaded by the teenaged survivors of the shootings themselves, lead to significant policy change?
(With inputs from Reuters)
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