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story.lead_photo.caption Morning fog on Saturday enshrouds 17 memorial crosses for the victims of the shooting Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

PARKLAND, Fla. -- Thousands of students, parents, teachers and neighbors of a Florida high school where 17 people were killed demanded on Saturday that immediate action be taken on gun-control legislation, insisting they would not relent until their demands were met.

The rally in downtown Fort Lauderdale gave a political outlet to the growing feelings of rage and mourning sparked by the carnage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Authorities say a former student who had been expelled, had mental-health problems and been reported to law enforcement agencies used a legally purchased semi-automatic rifle to kill students and staff members.

"Because of these gun laws, people that I know, people that I love, have died, and I will never be able to see them again," Delaney Tarr, a student at the school, told the crowd swamping the steps and courtyard at the federal courthouse.

The crowd chanted: "Vote them out!" and held signs calling for action. Some read: "#Never Again," "#Do something now" and "Don't Let My Friends Die."

"A lot of people are saying that these kids are activists, these kids need to be politicians," student Emma Gonzalez told a reporter. "But a lot of us are just other students who figured there's strength in numbers. And we want to be sure that we end up having our message sent across. And then we can get back to our normal everyday lives, you know."

Laurie Woodward Garcia, the mother of a 14-year-old girl, said she believed that this shooting would lead to change, though so many others had not.

"If there's something that we can unite on as Democrats and Republicans and independents, it's our children. So it will happen," she said.

"Look what we started," said Carlos Rodriguez, 50, who was on his way to work when he stopped to join the protest. "Look at all these people. One match started a whole forest fire."

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Photos by The Associated Press

"We're not a politically charged community -- this is new, because we've had enough," said Grace Solomon, a city commissioner who is organizing a large group of parents and students to travel to Tallahassee, the state capital, and then to Washington to demand "common-sense gun legislation."

"Parkland families have really involved parents; they are not going to take this sitting down," Solomon said. "We have an army of moms who are tired of having their kids assaulted. Democrats and Republicans are coming together to find common ground we can bring to Tallahassee."

Separately, organizers behind the Women's March have called for a 17-minute walkout on March 14 to "protest Congress' inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods."

The Network for Public Education, an advocacy organization for public schools, meanwhile, announced a "national day of action" on April 20, the anniversary of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, in which two students opened fire on their classmates, killing 12 students and one teacher.

The organization is encouraging teachers and students to organize sit-ins, walkouts, marches and any other events to protest gun violence in schools.

LEGISLATORS TALKING

The Florida Legislature is grappling with what to do in the aftermath of the shooting. Legislators have just three weeks left in their annual 60-day session.

Democrats want the Legislature to take up gun-control bills that have languished again this year, but Republican legislative leaders are talking about boosting mental-health programs in Florida's public schools as well considering measures that would bolster safety on school campuses.

Gov. Rick Scott has said he plans to talk to legislative leaders in the coming week about what could be done to make it harder for people who are mentally ill to purchase guns.

Senate and House leaders also have said they are willing to help pay to tear down the three-story building where the shootings happened and place a memorial on the site. It could cost up to $30 million to replace the school building and place a new one in a different location on the campus.

Some GOP legislators wanted to consider a bill to put trained armed volunteers or school employees inside the state's public schools. The Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to take up the legislation, SB1236, but Sen. Greg Steube, the committee chairman, announced late Friday that the measure would not be taken up after all. Steube made his decision after several top senators said they were opposed to considering the bill. Groups opposed to the bill flooded legislators with phone calls the past two days.

Florida has relatively few restrictions on gun ownership. Unlike California, for example, Florida does not require background checks for private gun sales. It does not regulate sales of assault-style weapons and large-capacity magazines, although federal law requires assault-weapon buyers from a licensed dealer to be at least 18. State laws also prohibit cities from passing gun restrictions.

Democratic politicians and others are pointing to the success of states like Connecticut in addressing the spiraling toll of gun violence.

In the aftermath of the rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six educators were killed in 2012, state lawmakers set out to draft some of the toughest gun measures in the country.

They largely succeeded -- significantly expanding a ban on the sale of assault weapons, prohibiting the sale of magazines with more than 10 rounds and requiring the registration of assault rifles and higher-capacity magazines. The state also required background checks for all firearms sales and created a registry of weapons offenders, including those accused of illegally possessing firearms.

President Donald Trump alluded to gun laws in a tweet Saturday, accusing congressional Democrats of not favoring new gun laws: "Just like they don't want to solve the DACA problem, why didn't the Democrats pass gun control legislation when they had both the House & Senate during the Obama Administration. Because they didn't want to, and now they just talk!"

Meanwhile, a prominent Republican political donor demanded on Saturday that the party pass legislation to restrict access to guns, and vowed not to contribute to any candidates or electioneering groups that did not support a ban on the sale of military-style firearms to civilians.

Al Hoffman Jr., a Florida real estate developer who has donated millions to Republican candidates and causes over the years, said he would seek to marshal support among other Republican political donors for a renewed assault-weapons ban.

"For how many years now have we been doing this -- having these experiences of terrorism, mass killings -- and how many years has it been that nothing's been done?" Hoffman said in an interview. "It's the end of the road for me."

Hoffman announced his ultimatum in an email to half a dozen Republican leaders, including Jeb Bush and Scott, the governor. He wrote in the email that he would not give money to Scott, who is considering a campaign for the Senate in 2018, or other Florida Republicans he has backed in the past, including Rep. Brian Mast, if they did not support new gun legislation.

Alluding to past mass killings, Hoffman argued in his email that future gun massacres were inevitable without government intervention: "If we go from Orlando to Las Vegas, and now Parkland, you just have to know that there are others around the country just dreaming about staging another mass murder."

Information for this article was contributed by Jason Dearen, Allen Breed, Tamara Lush, Sudhin S. Thanawala, Michael Warren and other staff members of The Associated Press; by Alexander Burns, Lisa W. Foderaro and Kristin Hussey of The New York Times; and by Kevin Sullivan, Tim Craig, William Wan and Renae Merle of The Washington Post.

Photo by AP/GERALD HERBERT
A public memorial to school shooting victim Meadow Pollack sits against a cross Saturday in Parkland, Fla.

A Section on 02/18/2018

Print Headline: Florida grief turns into activism; Ralliers call for changes to gun laws

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  • RBear
    February 18, 2018 at 6:28 a.m.

    Yet another day in the ongoing, but divided debate over gun control. Throughout this discussion, I have seen very little from the advocates on solutions and more on retaining the status quo. In fact, the status quo has advanced to a more troubling position with guns being allowed on campuses and open carry being promoted as a means to make the gun culture the norm.
    ...
    In many cases, when presented with options from abroad the gun advocates and several trolls have fallen back to a distorted view of the Second Amendment which was never written for the positions taken now. There is no doubt, based on the writings and speeches of our founders, that they would disagree with this blatant abusive interpretation of the amendment.
    ...
    The bottom line is our nation is in crisis over this issue and people are dying, especially children who just want to attend school in a safe environment. Gun advocates have proposed locking them down in what amounts to prisons JUST so the advocates can continue to own a weapon that has been used in all of the recent mass shootings. In other words, our children must live in a culture of fear so a few can play out some weird fantasy of gun superiority.
    ...
    Some have said that if the current laws were properly enforced, we wouldn't have the tragedies we do today. Looking at the Parkland shooting, all the laws were enforced and yet the young man could still carry out his carnage. He legally acquired the firearm. Even though he was a menace, the laws were followed regarding his ability to retain the firearm. He had mental health treatment, but while under treatment he was allowed to retain his firearms.
    ...
    So even with the laws in place, he could still legally carry out the attack as others have legally done in the past. Other nations have solved this by restricting access and imposing requirements. Gun advocates who oppose those restrictions and requirements do so in a selfish manner with little to no regard for the crisis we have today. In fact, I have heard more bunkering down from those and absolutely no reasonable solutions from them.
    ...
    We restrict access to certain drugs because their use and abuse is harmful to our society. We restrict consumption of certain beverages because their use and abuse is harmful to our society. Yet we fight to retain access and ownership to weapons that have proven to be harmful to our society.
    ...
    I'm not sure if this is the tipping point, but change will happen. Americans are getting tired of this argument and the rationale for retaining such weapons is being exposed for its absurdity. When other nations can fix this problem, Americans are asking why not here?

  • RobertBolt
    February 18, 2018 at 8:27 a.m.

    I just got my first "like" from a young Russian national on my Facebook page devoted to my memoir. I welcome the visitor, whose page includes little info and appears to be new, but I ponder the timing coincident with my recent escalation of comments against Russian trolling on-line.

  • Packman
    February 18, 2018 at 9:51 a.m.

    In all honesty it's delusional to believe more words written on paper (laws) will prevent acts of evil. Specific to school safety some great ideas include metal detectors, hiring retired vets and law enforcement as resource people, arming teachers, better enforcement of existing laws and publicizing the hell out of these preventative measures.
    .
    Pass more laws and sprinkle more magic pixie dust if you want, it will make libs feel better about themselves but does nothing to stop evil acts. The best and perhaps only way to deal with evil is at the point and time of attack.

  • JakeTidmore
    February 18, 2018 at 9:56 a.m.

    Vox populi.
    **
    Things to consider as politicians issue bromides about mental health, school safety, the futility of gun control laws and related topics:
    --
    * The Republican Congress and Donald Trump last year rolled back Obama-era rules that made it harder for people with mental illness to purchase a gun.
    --
    * The Trump budget would slash federal spending on school safety programs. And more here on the emptiness of Trump administration talk of school safety.
    --
    * The Trump budget cuts spending on a range of mental health programs.
    --
    Finally, and most of all, it is not an easy matter to prevent someone without a criminal record from owning a gun in the U.S. And given the unchecked ways that people can purchase weapons in private sales, it's not so easy to bar criminals either.

    (Source: ARTimes)
    **

    If you don't think restricting access to assault weapons helps, then you are unaware that such an action did work in Australia and did reduce such associated shootings.
    --
    So....are you more focused on protecting guns or on protecting people from guns?

  • sjmays
    February 18, 2018 at 10:20 a.m.

    I am convinced this problem is due to availability of guns, especially high-powered rifles. Look up statistics from previous years; gun violence has increased in proportion to the increase of accessibility to guns. THE GUN IS THE PROBLEM.

    I hear people say when there is a bombing, no one blames the bomb. This is comparing apples to oranges. How many people do you know who have died in a bombing? One reason for this is that bomb-making materials are heavily regulated and hard to get without notice.

    Now let us compare apples to apples. If it was a constitutional right to have bombs, everyone had several and many had hundreds. Every night many people started dying from bombs. School children lifted them from parents and started bombing their schools. Would we say then that it was not about the bombs.

    Also compare our gun deaths with other civilized countres -- look at Japan.

  • sjmays
    February 18, 2018 at 10:46 a.m.

    Japan has irradiated gun violence. They regulate, educate, investigate and eliminate guns because they believe it is about the gun.

    I don't understand the great fascination with something that is killing our children.

  • mrcharles
    February 18, 2018 at 11:23 a.m.

    Now is not the time to discuss the ongoing death of our children. We have thoughts!
    We have prayers!
    To do something would just be political.
    How's that working?

    Like the gop says , when we are sick we think and pray and don't need no stinkin doctor. They call that thinking thoughts. Rational people say that is a mental disease.

  • titleist10
    February 18, 2018 at 1:04 p.m.

    So we should outlaw cars when a drunk driver kills an innocent person outlaw dynamite when some one explodes a bomb on 9/11 over 3500 people were killed and not one shot was fired the justice system is too soft on criminals before the breakdown of the family unit this was not the prob that it is today

  • GeneralMac
    February 18, 2018 at 1:44 p.m.

    RBear's long rant at 6:28..........4th paragraph...." All the laws were enforced "

    FALSE !

    The law against carrying a firearm into a Gun Free Zone facility was NOT enforced!
    It was stated school authorities observed him walking down the street so they went tp a " Code Red"

    Evidently Code Red means doing NOTHING to stop the lawbreaker, not even locking the doors. Posting a worthless GUN FREE ZONE sign should not absolve a school of legal liability.

  • GeneralMac
    February 18, 2018 at 1:54 p.m.

    sjmays and RBear constantly using countries that have no 2nd Amendment rights would be like me praising North Korea because they know how to handle protesters like BLM.
    ( just like Japan and Germany have no right to bear arms, I doubt North Korea has the equal to our 1st Amendment )

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