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Protests planned statewide amid calls for action against gun violence

Second Amendment


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TALLAHASSEE — March for Our Lives, formed after the horror of the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, is organizing a nationwide march this Saturday in Washington, D.C, and in cities all over the country, including at least two dozen in Florida.

This weekend’s rally will be a repeat of the March for Our Lives rally organized four years ago when a gunman opened fire inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, leaving 17 people dead, including 14 students. The rally is in response to the latest mass shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. 

Jacklyn Corin, co-founder of March for Our Lives, told CBS News’ “Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan” that this weekend’s march is being done to call on “our U.S. Congress to actually care this time around because children are dying.” Last month’s shooting at an elementary school in Texas left 19 elementary school children dead.

“The reality is that young people are absolutely terrified in this country,” said Corin, noting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported gun violence as the leading cause of death of young Americans.

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“We can’t even enter the spaces that are supposed to make us feel the safest, the places where we’re meant to grow and become educated citizens without fearing that we are going to be shot dead in our seats,” said Corin, who was junior class president at the Parkland school in 2018.

“I’m four years removed from the shooting at my high school and I still fear that I picked a seat a little too close — or a little too far from an emergency exit in my college lecture hall,” she said. “No student in this country should have to feel that way.”

Asked if more police are needed to protect schools, Corin said “if we’re talking about what to do once a shooter has access to a school, it’s just too late.”

“More police in schools, arming police officers, arming teachers especially, is not the answer,” she said.

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Rallies all over Florida

The March for Our Lives rally in Florida includes at least two Florida dozen cities, including Pensacola,Tallahassee, Gainesville, Fort Myers, Port St. Lucie, St. Augustine, Flagler Beach, Daytona Beach, Melbourne, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Parkland. 

The planned protest against gun violence come at a time when the nation is reeling from the two horrific mass shootings only 10 days apart — and Congress at odds over what, if any, legislation to enact.

In Uvalde, Texas, an 18-year-old gunman opened fire on May 14 at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, killing 10 Black shoppers and workers in what officials have described as a hate crime. On May 24, a gunman, also 18 years of age, killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

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The Texas incident was the deadliest shooting at a U.S. grade school since the shocking attack at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, 10 years ago this December.

Since Sandy Hook, where 20 first-graders and six educators were gunned down in 2012, Congress has not passed a single piece of gun control legislation, underscoring the bitter divide around guns in America.

For many Americans, Sandy Hook was a mass shooting so horrific and unconscionable, they expected a shift away from Second Amendment arguments that favor the right to carry and conceal weapons. That hasn’t happened, leading some to question whether any measure of gun control can happen in this country.

Biden appeals for action

President Biden has acknowledged the stiff political headwinds as he has sought to drive up pressure on Congress to pass stricter gun limits after such efforts failed following past attacks.

His latest appeal: restore a ban on the sale of assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines. He’s also called on Congress to find middle ground to include keeping firearms from those with mental health issues and/or raising the age to buy assault-style weapons from 18 to 21.

“How much more carnage are we willing to accept?” Biden asked in a televised address to the nation a week after the Texas shootings and another recent attack in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a gunman shot and killed four people and himself at a medical office. 

“This time we have to take the time to do something,” Biden said, calling out the Senate, where 10 Republican votes would be needed to pass legislation.

Despite Biden’s impassioned pleas, any major action by Congress remains a long shot. 

Late Wednesday, House lawmakers voted to raise from 18 to 21 the minimum age to buy semi-automatic rifles and ban the sale of large-capacity magazines, following a day of poignant testimony from survivors of mass shootings, including a fourth-grader, a mother taking care of her wounded son and parents who lost a 10-year-old daughter.

The House bill is part of a package of gun reform measures that also would clamp down on gun trafficking, ban bump stocks and require safe storage of firearms. It passed 223-204, largely on a party-line vote.

The vote came after a full and emotional push from advocates — even actor Matthew McConaughey —  who urged Congress to tighten the nation’s gun laws after massacres in Buffalo, N.Y. and Texas.

The bill, known as the Protecting Our Kids Act, heads to the Senate where it’s not expected to pass because Republicans have enough votes to block gun legislation.

Will U.S. Senate respond?

A bipartisan group of senators is negotiating a narrower gun-control package than House Democrats, focusing on red-flag laws, mental health, and school safety. 

Lawmakers are facing mounting pressure to respond to gun violence, but few believe anything beyond modest gun reforms has a chance of passing.

Sen. Rick Scott, during a May 31 interview on the Hugh Hewitt podcast, talked about possible legislation in Washington to curb gun violence. As Florida governor in 2018, he steered the Republican-majority Legislature to make significant changes to state laws following the Parkland mass shooting. 

When asked about the 2018 to raise the age to purchase weapons from 18 to 21, Scott said he’s a longstanding Second Amendment supporter but that the buying age can be raised. “We’ve got some very responsible 18-year-olds, and then we’ve got some irresponsible 18-year-olds,” he said. 

He also said those with mental illness cannot be buying weapons: “I’ll work with anybody to make sure no one’s gun rights are taken away, but if you’re threatening harm to yourself or somebody else, you’ve got mental illness, come on. You can’t have access to a gun.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, who is running for re-election, has come under pressure from Democrats and activists for stricter gun laws. He, however, has long been an ardent backer of the Second Amendment and gun rights supporters. He’s also been a top recipient of campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association. 

Like Gov. Ron DeSantis, Rubio favors legislating enhancing school security over gun control measures.  He and Scott co-sponsored a bill that would create a federal clearinghouse for educational leaders and law enforcement agencies to improve school security techniques.

“If changes to our laws is a response to the latest horrific tragedy, then it should be changes that could have prevented that tragedy,” Rubio said this week.

Rubio, meanwhile, is locked into a pitched midterm election battle against Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Val Demings, a longtime law enforcement veteran in Florida. 

Florida Democrats see Rubio’s record on gun laws as a vulnerability ahead of November. They accuse Rubio — who got a A+ National Rifle Association Rating in 2016 — of breaking several promises to support gun violence legislation after the Parkland massacre.

“Marco Rubio told Floridians that he would support commonsense measures to keep them safe from gun violence. But time and again, he’s chosen the gun lobby over keeping his promises in the wake of tragic mass shootings,” said Florida Democratic Party spokesperson Grant Fox in a statement issued Thursday.

Contributing: The Associated Press and USA Today

Jason Delgado is a reporter for the USA Today Network-Florida. He’s based in Tallahassee. Reach him at JDelgado@gannett.com





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