Students urge lawmakers to heed their call for stricter gun laws. ‘It’s been 36 days and nothing has happened. We have to move fast’
This article titled “Parkland students to Congress: tighten gun laws or risk ‘killing America’s future'” was written by Sabrina Siddiqui in Washington, for theguardian.com on Thursday 22nd March 2018 17.57 UTC
The students who have shaped a national debate over gun laws have warned the US Congress to take action or risk “killing the future of America”.
As activists prepare to take to the streets in Washington and elsewhere on Saturday for the March for Our Lives, students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school urged lawmakers on Capitol Hill to heed their calls and enact stricter gun laws.
“We’re not trying to take away your guns. We’re trying to take back our lives,” said David Hogg, a survivor of the 14 February shooting in Parkland, Florida.
“It’s not a Democrat problem. It’s not a Republican problem. It’s an American problem.”
The Parkland shooting, which left 17 people dead, kicked off a wave of activism that is expected to gain momentum in Saturday’s march. As many as 500,000 protesters are expected to march in Washington to demand action, with as many as 800 parallel events organized nationwide and around the world.
The last major debate on gun laws in Congress occurred in the aftermath of the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. But despite a national outcry over the shooting, which left 20 children and six educators dead, the US Senate failed to expand background checks after a Republican-led filibuster killed a bipartisan compromise.
Although there was some initial discussion around tightening gun laws in the wake of the Parkland shooting, lawmakers have yet to hold a vote on any gun-related measures.
Aalayah Eastmond, another Parkland survivor, fought back tears as she voiced the frustration at the inaction since her classmates were gunned down.
“It’s been 36 days and nothing has happened. We have to move fast,” she said.
On Thursday, Florida senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson were poised to unveil a so-called “red flag” bill, which would encourage states to adopt legislation allowing law enforcement officials or family members to file gun restraining orders to remove firearms from potentially violent individuals.
Some states, including Florida, recently enacted such a law. The bill is also co-sponsored by the Democratic senator Jack Reed, whose home state of Rhode Island is considering similar action.
Polling has repeatedly shown widespread support for stricter gun laws, with universal background checks ranking among the most popular proposals with the American public.
On Thursday, a new USA Today/Ispos survey shed light on another consequence of gun violence in America: for the generation that have grown up in the aftermath of the 1999 Columbine high school massacre, the threat of mass shootings is a defining fear.
According to the poll of young individuals aged 13 to 24, which included more than 600 students, nearly one in five respondents said they feel unsafe at school, while one in four said they thought it was somewhat or very likely that a classmate will bring a gun to school.
The survey also found that more than one in three young people across the US planned to join the March for Our Lives protests on Saturday, either in person or via social media.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, said it was no surprise that young Americans were leading the movement for change.
“That has always been the way change, particularly revolutionary change, has been accomplished in this country,” Blumenthal, whose constituents include the Sandy Hook families, said at Thursday’s press conference.
“It’s in the great American tradition that they are marching in Washington and they are marching on our consciousness. ‘Our blood, your hands’: that’s what they’re saying.”
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