Florida massacre survivors call for gun control

‘This isn’t just a mental health issue,’ student Emma Gonzalez tells demonstrators

Students who survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school condemn gun laws in the US at an angry and somber anti-gun rally in Fort Lauderdale. Video: Reuters

 

Student survivors of a mass shooting that killed 17 people at a Florida high school called for gun restrictions on Saturday during a rally.

Wednesday’s shooting in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Parkland fuelled the long-running US debate between supporters of tougher controls on firearms and advocates for gun rights, which are protected by the US Constitution’s Second Amendment.

Both sides of the dispute were on display on Saturday.

Many at a rally in Fort Lauderdale that was organised to demand tougher gun laws rejected comments by US president Donald Trump and others that mental illness was the main factor behind the slaughter at Margory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“We need to pay attention to the fact that this isn’t just a mental health issue,” Emma Gonzalez, an 18-year-old student at the school, told hundreds of demonstrators gathered on the steps of a federal building.

The shooter “wouldn’t have harmed that many students with a knife!” she yelled, shedding tears as the crowd cheered her on.

Gonzalez criticised Trump for overturning a measure implemented by former president Barack Obama that required extra scrutiny of some gun buyers with a history of mental illness.

She also condemned the National Rifle Association, which opposes laws that it says violate gun owners’ rights.

“Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have ever been done to prevent this, we call B.S.” Gonzalez said.

Nikolas Cruz (19), a former student who was expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has been charged with 17 counts of murder. Police said he was armed with an AR-15-style rifle and had multiple magazines of ammunition.

Cruz legally purchased the murder weapon from a licensed dealer in Coral Springs, Florida, the Broward County sheriff said.

On Friday, Mr Trump visited a Florida hospital and met with people wounded in the shooting as well as first responders.

Ryan Deitsch (18) was among those locked in a classroom closet as the shooter stalked the school’s corridors.

“The least lawmakers can do is vote on something,” Deitsch said in an interview at the rally, referring to tighter gun controls. “What’s the worst that can happen?”

The rally coincided with a gun show attended by hundreds of people some 64km away at the Dade County fairgrounds. Despite calls for the show to be canceled, there were more than $5 million worth of guns and accessories on display, organisers said, including dozens of assault-style rifles.–Reuters