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Parkland Survivors Take Town Hall

A Recap

Student+Emma+Gonzalez+on+left%2C+NRA+rep.+Dana+Loesch+on+right
Student Emma Gonzalez on left, NRA rep. Dana Loesch on right

Student Emma Gonzalez on left, NRA rep. Dana Loesch on right

Student Emma Gonzalez on left, NRA rep. Dana Loesch on right

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On February 21, just a week after the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, student survivors from the school, their parents, and representatives of the state of Florida gathered to speak at a televised town hall meeting hosted by CNN. The students and the parents of victims voiced their frustrations over current gun laws and offered solutions to the nationwide gun control debate, addressing lawmakers and the National Rifle Association.  

What happened?

The evening began with student activists taking the stage to demand change not only from the President and from legislators, but also from the National Rifle Association (NRA). While Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and Representative Ted Deutch joined the town hall, President Trump and Florida’s Governor Rick Scott did not attend. Students, including Emma Gonzalez, passionately questioned the lawmakers about their stance on banning military-grade rifles and on refusing to accept any donations from the NRA in the future. The legislators and NRA members tended to talk around the questions, especially Dana Loesch, the representative of the NRA, who focused more on commending the students for their bravery than directly answering their demands. The discussion angered many, including Avery Anger, a survivor who felt even more unsure about her safety after the town hall with lawmakers. The program closed with a sense of solidarity as Max Schachter, father of victim Alex Schachter, read a moving poem his son had written comparing life to a rollercoaster.

Junior Cameron Kasky on left, Senator Marco Rubio on right

Highlights:

  • Senior Ryan Deitsch of Marjory Stoneman Douglas fiercely demanded “Why do we have to be the ones to do this? Why do we have to speak out to the Capitol? Why do we have to march on Washington, just to save innocent lives?”
  • Andrew Pollack, father of victim Meadow Pollach, spoke on behalf of his daughter as he claimed, “We as a country failed our children.”
  • When asked if it should be more difficult to buy guns, NRA member Dana Loesch spoke on behalf of the organization to agree that the system for purchasing semiautomatic weapons has several flaws. However, she aligned her argument with Trump’s agenda as she deemed the shooter an “insane monster” and offered to solve gun violence by strengthening mental health checks for those buying weapons.
  • Senator Marco Rubio also faced several difficult topics as students and parents questioned his support of the NRA. Cameron Kasky, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, asked if the Senator would honestly refuse future contributions from the NRA, but, surprised by the question, Rubio could not afford a definite answer. Instead, he claimed that the organization simply buys into his agenda and that while he undoubtedly supports the Second Amendment, he does want to fight for safety in American schools. When Fred Guttenberg, a father to victim Jaime, angrily pleaded for the Senator to say that “guns were the factor in the hunting of our kids… this week,” Rubio did not agree. He stated that advancing and strengthening gun control alone would not solve the problem in the country. However, he did agree with Trump’s intention to raise the age requirement for rifles.
  • Sheriff Scott Israel rallied in support of the students as he proclaimed, “My generation, we did not get it done. You will get it done.”

The positives:

Despite receiving many indirect responses from NRA representative, Dana Loesch, and Florida Senator, Marco Rubio, the students, including Emma Gonzalez and Ryan Deitsch, remained poised, polite, and concise in their arguments and delivery. Their outspokenness regarding their fear for the future of gun violence in the nation has sparked a wave of support in the form of protests and school walkouts across the country.

What is the country’s stance on the gun control debate?

In a poll published by Quinnipiac University on February 20, 2018, a majority of American citizens voted in support of stricter gun laws with a split of 66% – 31%. This is the highest level of support ever measured by the independent Quinnipiac University National Poll since they began polling Americans on gun control following the Sandy Hook massacre. The results reveal that the nation is certainly moved by the recent gun violence. Surprisingly, 50% – 44% of this support in the 2018 poll came from citizens who own guns.

Where are we now?

In an attempt to mend the situation and end the heated debate, President Trump has offered to create a law that bans bump stocks (an attachment which allows semiautomatic weapons to fire bullets faster) and voiced his support to raise the age required to legally purchase guns. Overall, he is calling for “comprehensive” gun control and his plan focuses on improving mental illness checks. He has also condemned Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, an on-duty, armed school resource officer who failed to respond to the Parkland shooting. Trump ensured state governors at a White House business meeting on February 26 that he would have faced the shooter even without a weapon.

Schools around the nation are supporting Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students by taking part in several walkouts and protests in the next month. Mount Saint Dominic Academy students, faculty, and staff will participate in the National Student Walkout on March 14. A March For Our Lives demonstration is planned for March 24 in Washington, D.C.

In addition, many companies, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, are limiting and ending their sales of assault-style weapons.

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The student news site of Mount Saint Dominic Academy
Parkland Survivors Take Town Hall