School Shooting Survivors Demand Stricter Gun Control at FL Capitol

Sheryl Acquarola, a 16-year-old junior from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is overcome with emotion in the East Gallery of the Florida House of Representatives.

Sheryl Acquarola, a 16-year-old junior from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is overcome with emotion in the East Gallery of the Florida House of Representatives. (Troy Kinsey)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With heavy hearts, students, who have become citizen lobbyists, met with lawmakers on Tuesday with one goal – to urge the passage of gun control measures.

Hoping their tragic stories will spur lawmakers to act, a small group of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students went door-to-door asking senators and representatives to put aside their partisan differences and act.

However, a move to push a bill banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines directly to the House floor was rejected on mostly party lines.

Ashley Santoro, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, said she’s trying to cope, but is saddened by the response at the State Capitol.

“I’ve been, like, OK, but, you know, it’s just, this isn’t what I really thought it would be, because people really just are out for themselves,” she stated.

House Bill 219, which prohibits the sale, transfer or possession of large capacity magazines and assault weapons including AR-15s, was rejected by a vote of 36 to 71 in the Republican-controlled House.

Buses of additional students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas are expected to arrive Wednesday in Tallahassee, where the students will walk from the Leon County Civic Center to the State Capitol to continue their advocacy.

Trying to hold back tears, Santoro said it’s important for policy makers to listen.

“I want people to know what it was like for those who really went through it and why we’re fighting for what we are fighting for,” she stressed. “I want to help them try to find a middle ground between both parties, because as it stands, we are just as polarized as ever, and we can’t have that if we’re going to be unified.”

Some Republican Senate leaders are preparing a bill that would limit assault weapon sales to those 21 and older, and place a three-day waiting period on rifle purchases.

But the measures fall short of the complete ban on the sale and transfer of assault weapons that is being advocated by Democrats and Douglas High students.

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