Enough is Enough: Florida Students March for Gun Control

Across the State of Florida, high school students have been skipping school this week to protest U.S. gun laws in the wake of last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The shooting occurred on Feb. 14 (to some, the Valentine’s Day massacre) and ultimately had a death toll of 17, a number that includes both students and staff. To their peers, students and coworkers, the loss is one that cannot be adequately defined.

The shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder as of last week. Notably, the FBI stated that it had received a tip about a comment made on a YouTube video by Cruz, but that it had failed to follow up on the tip. Cruz legally owned an AR-15 military-style rifle.

Last week’s shooting grimly marks the eighteenth incident of gun violence this year at an American school. As each shooting passes in and out of the news cycle, many Americans question what Congress is doing to help stop the violence that they feel is a product of guns that they see on TV or around them in their communities. Many have criticized President Donald Trump and his response to the shooting, in which he expressed his condolences in a tweet, not mentioning guns or gun violence. Later, in a televised speech, Trump called for “a culture [in our country] that embraces the dignity of life…that creates deep and meaningful human connections, and that turns classmates and colleagues into friends and neighbors.” Congress is currently working to introduce a bipartisan bill concerning gun control.

Some of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students met with Florida lawmakers in the capitol on Wednesday.  On Tuesday, the Florida House of Representatives voted against a bill that would have considered a ban on assault weapons, a major step in the wake of a shooting.

Students traveling from Broward County rallied at the Old Capitol on Wednesday at 12 p.m., with organizational help from Broward County State Senator Lauren Book and the former chair of the Florida Democratic Party Allison Tant. Students from Leon County schools were excused from classes to attend the rally. The Broward students were welcomed at the Civic Center, where they stayed during their time in Tallahassee.

With the Capitol visible from campus, FSU students, especially those from Broward County, are connected to the shooting. The terror of the 2014 shooting at Strozier Library is still fresh to many, and the location of last week’s shooting is literally too close to home for many. According to FSU’s Office of Institutional Research, Broward County sent 3,772 students to FSU in 2017, the second largest county to provide students. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was the sixth largest pool, with 54 students enrolling at FSU in 2017.

At 11 a.m., Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum took to the Westcott steps under a flag at half-mast and addressed a growing crowd of people, nearly all carrying posters. He confronted the topic of gun violence simply by repeating the phrase “Enough is enough,” and began a cheer of “I believe that we will win,” referencing the hopes of gun control proponents. He also called for “background checks” and “no guns on campus,” mentioning FSU to a smattering of applause.  

Led by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the crowd moved down College Avenue towards the capitol, waving posters bearing phrases like “I stand with Parkland” and “Help”. Outside of the Capitol, protesters clustered onto the lawn of the Old Capitol, nearly spilling onto Monroe Street. Over 3,000 people are estimated to have attended the rally. Traffic was stopped so that the marchers could approach the Capitol. Employees left the Capitol building in droves, coming out to see the crowd and to hear the rallying cries of voices young and old.

“Enough is enough,” they yelled.

All images courtesy of Anne-Marie Yatsula.