• Parkland students, Pulse survivors rally for gun control in Tallahassee

    By: Jason Kelly , Steve Barrett


    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students traveled from Parkland to Tallahassee, where they held a rally Wednesday, urging lawmakers to strengthen the state's gun control laws.

    The students marched to the Florida State Capitol, one week after deputies said former classmate Nikolas Cruz, 19, killed 17 people and injured more than a dozen more at the school.

    Photos: Students rally in Tallahassee for stricter gun laws

    The first group of students arrived in Tallahassee Monday evening to cheering crowds. More students arrived throughout Tuesday.

    "These kids are going to make a difference. They are well spoken, they're articulate, they're passionate and they're smart, and they're going to be the ones that are going to make change," said Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine.

    Read: Florida lawmakers fail to take up rifle bill as shooting survivors arrive at capital

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    Several hundred people protested outside of the Florida House of Representatives while lawmakers were in session.
    The protesters were upset Wednesday that the Republican-controlled chamber refused to take up a measure a day earlier that would have banned assault rifles and large capacity magazines. 
    The crowd burst into chants of "vote them out" and "we're students united, we'll never be divided." The noise could be heard inside the chamber but business went on uninterrupted. 

    Read: Scott holds workshops to discuss school safety, gun laws

    "Everyone wants change and we're all trying to work together to do that," student Jenna Waldman said at Wednesday's rally. "You shouldn't have to go to school fearing for your life every day. You should have to go to school worrying about your tests and your school supplies."

    The rally was organized by the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, a group that was created after the 2016 massacre at the Pulse Orlando nightclub. Survivors of that mass shooting will join students at the rally.

    "This looks like unity, like we are together," student Madison Leal said. "We are joined and we're strong and going to get through this together."

    Read: Hundreds of students walk out in mass protest, march to Parkland high school

    Read: Anthony Borges took bullets for classmates in Parkland school shooting

    The organization has sought to convince legislators to ban the sale of AR-15s in Florida.

    Students from both Tallahassee-area universities said they felt they had to support the Parkland students.

    "I'm tired and I want change. Growing up, school was a place -- it was my safe haven. I loved school and I shouldn't be afraid to go to school and get proper education without fear of getting shot for learning," said FAMU student Raiyana Malone.

    Students tried on Tuesday to convince lawmakers to consider banning assault rifles during the current legislative session, but the Florida House of Representatives voted down a motion to take up a bill.

    "No one's giving up. Some of these kids that I personally know, they are not giving up and they won't until something happens," said Lexi Udine, a senior at Stoneman Douglas High School.

    Legislators on both sides of the aisle said they'd prefer to focus on other measures, such as raising the minimum age to buy a gun.

    Read: Central Florida students stage walkout for school safety, gun control

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    Read: Family who took in Nikolas Cruz: 'We just didn't know'

    "If you don't do it now, there's going to be another one, and another one and another one," student Jordan Faber said. "And that cannot happen."

    Florida's Republican legislative leaders say they are going to move ahead with a "sweeping" bill that responds to the shooting at a high school that left 17 people dead.
    The legislation will include substantial increases in money spent on mental health programs and school resource officers. Lawmakers are considering a program promoted by one Florida sheriff that calls for law-enforcement training and deputizing someone who is allowed to carry a weapon on campus.
    Legislators may also enact a waiting period for rifle purchases and raise the legal limit from 18 to 21. Florida now has a three-day waiting period for handguns.
    Students from Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School visited the Capitol on Wednesday to talk to lawmakers.

    Rep. Jose Oliva, a Miami Republican who met with some of the students, said he understands "there is a tremendous amount of emotion around this subject." 

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott held a series of workshops Tuesday to discuss school safety, mental health and access to guns.

    Scott vowed to present some of the proposals generated during the roundtable discussions to legislators next week.

    "We want to start a conversation," student Alfonso Calderon said. "The most important thing we can do is have our legislators and governor at least speak to us about possible change."

    Read: Do video games lead to violence seen in Parkland, other mass shootings?

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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