Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the site of the deadly Parkland, Florida shooting, delivered impassioned speeches to Florida lawmakers in Tallahassee on Wednesday. The teenage shooting survivors urged legislative changes to end gun violence.
"Trust me, I understand," Stoneman Douglas High School junior Alfonso Calderon said in a six-minute speech at a rally. "I was in a closet, locked for four hours, with people who I would consider almost family, crying and weeping on me, begging for their lives. I understand what it's like to text my parents, 'Goodbye, I might never ever get to see you again, I love you.' I understand what it's like to fear for your life, and I don't think we should ever be discredited because of that. I don't think we should ever be silenced because we are just children."
Alfonso Calderon, a Florida school shooting survivor: “Trust me, I understand. I was in a closet locked, for four hours...I understand what it’s like to text my parents, ‘goodbye, I might never ever get to see you again, I love you’” pic.twitter.com/UaooVSPNNA— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) February 21, 2018
Calderon and dozens of his classmates traveled nearly seven hours from their hometown in Parkland to state capitol Tallahassee to meet with a long list of Florida's top leaders, including Governor Rick Scott, state Attorney General Pam Bondi, state Senate President Joe Negron and state House Speaker Richard Corcoran, to share their experiences and call for new restrictions on guns.
Students questioned lawmakers about the sale of military-style firearms like the AR-15, the weapon that was legally purchased and used by former student Nikolas Cruz in the deadly school shooting.
"We can't just blame Nikolas Cruz for this tragedy, because the laws of our country allowed him to purchase a weapon," Stonemason Douglas junior Lorenzo Prado said. "Nikolas Cruz was able to purchase an assault rifle before he was able to drink beer. Nikola Cruz was able to purchase an assault rifle, although he had clear signs of mental illness. Nikola Cruz was able to purchase an assault rifle with clear signs of delinquency from the school. Nikola Cruz was able to purchase an assault rifle with the intention to kill."
Watch: pic.twitter.com/82wX9JN5fb— Matt Shuham (@mattshuham) February 21, 2018
Earlier in the week, the GOP-majority statehouse rejected a proposal that would ban many semiautomatic rifles and large-capacity ammunition magazines. On Wednesday, lawmakers expressed support for other measures endorsed by the students including deeper background checks and stricter gun rules for individuals with mental health issues.
Outside the the state capital, thousands of local high school students across the Tampa Bay area showed their solidarity with the Stoneman Douglas students by staging organized walkouts at their respective schools. The demonstrations, largely organized over social media, had students gathering in hallways and campus plazas for 17 minutes of silence to commemorate the 17 people killed during the February 14th shooting.
The movement spread nationwide, with students from California to Washington, D.C. partaking in their own walkout protests.
Stoneman Douglas High School senior Ryan Deitsch: "The life of innocents is being taken day after day after day, and it does not matter what we say, it does not matter how many people die, the legislature, those in power, have not taken action." https://t.co/k5Sq0x4iFI pic.twitter.com/Uv7L4RRsJf— ABC News (@ABC) February 21, 2018
Sarah Chadwick: "Never again should a child be afraid to go to school. Never again should students have to protest for their lives." pic.twitter.com/SfW9RI8SAC— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 21, 2018
FL shooting survivor Sofie Whitney: "Help us so our children, our grandchildren & their children don't have to March for their lives" pic.twitter.com/xtF81nXlWt— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) February 21, 2018
"We've had enough of thoughts and prayers...we are coming after every single one of you and demanding that you take action, demanding that you make a change." - Delaney Tarr, Stoneman Douglas High School senior https://t.co/cRvLyvk1v5 pic.twitter.com/w4454z3FXN— ABC News (@ABC) February 21, 2018
"I ask Congress & Senate: what if it had happened to you or to your children? Would it take you so long to make a difference?" Dimitri Hoth pic.twitter.com/gnZREPA83d— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) February 21, 2018
Marjory Stoneman Douglas student’s message for NRA: “We are not afraid of you. We will not be silenced by anything that you have to say.” pic.twitter.com/bWEyRZ5nFU— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 21, 2018