Students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – the Parkland, Florida school where a gunman killed 17 students and faculty members – banded together at an anti-gun rally Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, where they called on Donald Trump and the government to establish tougher gun laws to better protect students from future tragedies.
"Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving. But instead we are up here standing together because if all our government and President can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it's time for victims to be the change that we need to see," Marjory Stoneman Douglas senior Emma Gonzalez said in a powerful speech outside a federal courthouse.
"Since the time of the Founding Fathers and since they added the Second Amendment to the Constitution, our guns have developed at a rate that leaves me dizzy. The guns have changed but our laws have not. We certainly do not understand why it should be harder to make plans with friends on weekends than to buy an automatic or semi-automatic weapon. In Florida, to buy a gun you do not need a permit, you do not need a gun license, and once you buy it you do not need to register it. You do not need a permit to carry a concealed rifle or shotgun. You can buy as many guns as you want at one time."
At the rally, students and speakers criticized the National Rifle Association's role in suppressing common sense gun laws and promised to challenge any politicians taking NRA money.
"We've sat around too long being inactive in our political climate, and as a result, children have died," fellow Marjory Stoneman Douglas student David Hogg told CNN. "If our elected officials are not willing to stand up and say, 'I'm not going to continue to take money from the NRA because children are dying,' they shouldn't be in office and they won't be in office because this is a midterm year and this is the change that we need."
In the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, numerous student activist groups have pledged to protest the government's inactivity on gun control, including midday walkouts. The March for Our Lives organization has established March 24th as the date for students, educators and administrators to march on Washington, D.C. and demand that lawmakers "their lives and safety become a priority."
"School safety is not a political issue. There cannot be two sides to doing everything in our power to ensure the lives and futures of children who are at risk of dying when they should be learning, playing, and growing," March for Our Lives said in their mission statement.
"The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and our parents to call BS," Gonzalez continued in her speech in front of thousands at the rally.
"Companies trying to make caricatures of the teenagers these days, saying that all we are self-involved and trend-obsessed and they hush us into submission when our message doesn't reach the ears of the nation, we are prepared to call BS. Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS. They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don't know what we're talking about, that we're too young to understand how the government works. We call BS."