Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School students have made their way from Parkland, FL to Tallahassee in an attempt to magnify their voices in the faces of Florida lawmakers following the tragic school shooting that claimed 17 unsuspecting and innocent lives.
The Broward County students arrived at Leon High School on the evening of Feb. 20 following the 10 a.m. funeral service for 16-year-old classmate Carmen Schentrup, one of 17 people killed in one of deadliest school shootings in American history.
On Feb. 14, confessed gunman Nikolas Cruz, 19, opened fire on his former high school. Cruz faces 17 counts of premeditated murder.
The Tallahassee students, parents, school faculty members and locals gathered on the front lawn of Leon High to welcome the determined Parkland students as they exited their charter buses upon arrival. Event-goers wore red ribbons with the Parkland school’s initials, “MSD,” displaying sincere condolences and unwavering solidarity. Roughly 100 students received a somber round of applause as they made their way off the bus and up the stairs of the Tallahassee high school.
Sophie Mills, a senior at Leon High School, expressed her vow to solidarity with the Parkland students at the event just hours after state lawmakers voted to refuse the debate on gun control issues. “I think what (lawmakers) did today was egregious and a total misuse of power. The public is telling them it’s a public safety issue. They’re not even listening,” Mills expressed.
The 18-year-old revealed her disgust regarding the gun control debate being shot down and a pornography bill deeming pornography as a “health risk” being considered.
“Meanwhile, they’re going to be talking about a pornography bill. Obviously comparing the two, I don’t think anyone can argue that one is a more pressing issue than the other,” she added.
Rebecca MacDonell, Tallahassee resident and attendee of the Parkland student welcoming admitted that though she would like to see stricter gun laws, she does not believe the restrictions will come any time soon.
“I feel like the bans need to take place; I don’t think that anything is going to happen,” she said.
She went on to explain that lawmakers will not take action until they feel threatened themselves.
“It doesn’t affect them. It’s not their kids; it’s not them. They’re not afraid of being shot. They aren’t afraid of their kids being shot. Until they’re afraid, nothing will change,” MacDonell claimed.
Mills claimed that the answer to this controversial political pickle was for students to inform the government of the reality that high school students will be able to vote soon, and these catastrophes will not be forgotten along with the memory of lawmakers not taking a stance against gun violence with the implementation of stricter gun laws.
“What (lawmakers) did was spit in the faces of children. I think that students need to really show (their) voices. They don’t take us seriously unless they know we’re their constituents, but they need to know that we will be their constituents one day.”
Leon High students also spoke on how they and their peers are dealing with school shooting tragedies and the government’s responses to them.
Senior Hannah Burda admitted that she suppresses her fear of a similar situation happening in an attempt to attain peace of mind.
“You have desensitize yourself to this when you realize that this is what you are facing every day that you arrive to school.”
Sophomore Jake Maguire shared that he had friends that decided to stay home from school the day following the Parkland school shooting.
“One friend of mine decided not to come to school the next day because she was extremely uneasy about (the shooting),” he said.
Burda also spoke about the reservations of some of her schoolmates who planned on attending today’s rally for gun safety with her at the Capitol.
“One of my friends was getting into a hysteria because there is always the fear that someone could bring a gun to the rally and start shooting. She was terrified of dying.”
Cameron Kasky, a junior at Stoneman Douglas High School, was chosen to speak on behalf of the visiting Parkland students. His poignant speech delivered a clear message to lawmakers and the public: Stoneman Douglas High School students are up for a fight for stricter gun laws.
“You guys are what matter to me. We’re what’s bringing the change,” the young shooting survivor said.
Kasky went on to tell the crowd of the Parkland students’ plan to speak with Florida politicians at the rally for gun safety held at 11 a.m. earlier today following their sit in at a 10 a.m. senate meeting.
“We’re going to talk to these politicians tomorrow. We’re going to talk to them the day after that. We’re going to keep pushing until something is done because people are dying. You (students) are what we’re trying to protect.”