Assault-rifle bill voted down in Florida as shooting survivors look on in Capitol
iStock/Thinkstock(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — Many of the students barely had time to dry their eyes as they rushed from funerals for classmates killed in a mass shooting at their school to buses chartered to take them to the Florida state capital, where they plan to lobby legislators and rally for tougher gun laws and school safety.
The two busloads of student activists spawned from the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week left Parkland, Florida, about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday for the 400-mile trip to Tallahassee.
“This isn’t about Democrats. This isn’t about Republicans. This is about us demanding change, and this is about the fact that we have already won. It’s just a matter of when,” yelled a student standing atop a car, firing up the group before they hit the road.
But just as the students started rolling north on their journey for justice, state lawmakers voted down a measure to ban purchases of assault rifles like the one 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz allegedly used in his attack that left 17 students and school staff members dead in Parkland.
With a 36-71 vote, Florida lawmakers defeated the assault rifle bill that would have also banned the purchases of large-capacity magazines statewide.
Several students from Stoneman Douglas who traveled to Tallahassee Monday night were in the gallery at the state capitol building when the vote was taken, and some gasped in disbelief.
Chris Grady, a 19-year-old senior at Stoneman Douglas, was not deterred by the stubbornness to change gun laws even in the face of the tragedy that occurred less than a week ago.
“I really think they are going to hear us out,” Grady said as he prepared to board the bus in Parkland. Grady added that he hopes he and his classmates will change the minds of lawmakers to pass “common-sense laws like rigorous background checks.”
“We are focusing on gun rights and mental health,” Jaclyn Corin, a 17-year-old junior who helped organized the bus trip, told ABC News.
She said he hopes lawmakers will listen once they come face to face with school shooting survivors like herself.
“There aren’t a lot of bills focusing on mental health, and we hope to change that,” Corin said.
The buses are scheduled to reach Tallahassee about 8:30 p.m., and a group of students from Leon County High School there plan to be on hand to greet them as a sign of support.
State Sen. Lauren Book — D-Plantation, Fla., who paid for the charter buses for the students out of her own pocket — also plans to greet the students when they arrive and help them organize and meet her fellow legislators on Wednesday.
The students plan to start their lobbying efforts early Wednesday when they walk to the state capitol building holding signs reading “Never Again,” the motto for their grassroots movement.
The students also plan to attend a noon rally Wednesday outside the old state capitol building to support gun safety reform.
“I’m committed to making sure no child is going to be scared going into a classroom,” Jon Faber, a parent chaperone on that trip, told ABC News. “That’s what they’re going to achieve.”
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