Thousands of high school students and protestors descended on the state Capitol Wednesday to show their support for stricter gun laws following last week’s mass shooting that left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
While a mass of people formed on the front lawn of the Old Capitol, around 100 students who were on campus during the shooting met with state lawmakers behind closed doors to advocate for stricter gun control and new mental health policies.
The students met with Attorney General Pam Bondi, Senate President Joe Negron, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, in addition to various other legislators from both sides of the aisle.
Jaclyn Corin is a 17-year-old junior at Stoneman Douglas who, along with fellow students, privately met with Bondi. After she emerged from the meeting, a reporter asked Corin if she questioned Bondi about her stance on assault weapons following the House’s decision Tuesday to vote down a measure that would have considered an assault weapons ban.
“We didn’t discuss that,” Corin told reporters, adding their discussion focused more on mental health.
Stoneman Douglas student Kyle Kashuv said most of the lawmakers he met with were receptive and seemed like they wanted to enact change. But he said Senate President Joe Negron gave vague answers.
“It seemed like he didn’t want to answer certain questions,” Kashuv said. “You could clearly see he was trying to find a way out of it.”
Other lawmakers, like Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw, came out to greet Stoneman Douglas students earlier that morning to tell them to keep fighting, even if the legislature fails to act.
“Demand action,” Shaw told students. “You’re not up here to ask.”
Students also held a sit-in near House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s office and tried to give boxes of petitions to Gov. Scott’s office.
At multiple points throughout the protest outside, chants of “Where’s Rick Scott?” broke out.
— Ramsey Touchberry (@ramsberry1) February 21, 2018
He was reportedly at a funeral for one of the shooting victims and met with a group of students later in the day. Scott said he would be releasing a new proposal on Friday that will keep students safe and “prevent people with mental illness from getting guns.”
I met with students who came up from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High today. I look forward to putting out my proposal on Friday to keep students safe and prevent people with mental illness from getting guns. pic.twitter.com/GryC3Det9V
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) February 22, 2018
The protest consisted of more than a dozen speakers, ranging from politicians to students to activists.
Florance Yard is a Stoneman Douglas student and was one of the speakers. She gave a warning to lawmakers who won’t act on gun reform and public safety.
“We may be too young to vote,” she said from behind the podium. “But soon we will be able to vote and we will vote you out!”
With this year’s legislative session ending in just two weeks on March 9, the chances of passing any type of legislation addressing gun reform or mental health issues before session’s end dwindle by the day.