Are lawmakers in Tallahassee listening?

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students storm capital

By Nadeen Yanes - Reporter

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Exactly one week after a gunman stormed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, students stormed Florida's State Capitol.

Hundreds gathered at a rally hosted by the students on the steps in the heart of Tallahassee, not calling for an assault weapons ban, but yelling for it.

"I'm not trying to take away your Second Amendment rights nor am I trying to eliminate all guns,
but we cannot protect our guns before we protect our children," student Florence Yared said at the rally.

it was a powerful plea as the students are now demanding to turn their anger into action.

"What more do we have to do to make you understand we are children and we are dying?" asked a tearful Sheryl Acuaroli.

The crowd responded to the student's speeches with such chants as "Vote them out" and "NRA go away."

Before the rally began, the students spent the morning roaming the halls of the State Senate and House building, meeting one-on-one with lawmakers including Democratic Senator Linda Stewart from Orlando and Republican Senator David Simmons, who represents Seminole and parts of Volusia counties.

"They are very articulate and very committed to this whole idea to the prevalence of assault weapons and they want to see them gone," Stewart said.

Since the Pulse nightclub mass shooting in 2016, Stewart has pushed for a bill to ban assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

"I've tried to do this for two years," she said. "This is what I'm asking for, please let's have people, pro, and con, at least discuss it."

But she says her bill in the Senate (SB 196)  and the companion bill in the House (HB 219), filed by Carlos Guillermo Smith, hasn't even been stalled. It's never even been heard in committee.

The bill was shot down in the House on Tuesday, in front of students from Parkland.

Stewart is hoping there's still time to get the ban.

"Just never giving up," she said.

Senator David Simmons says he's backing a Republican package to strengthen some of the state's gun laws. He, too, met with students from Stoneman Douglas.

He said he's in favor of banning bump stocks, which would turn a semi-automatic assault weapon into an automatic weapon. He's also in favor of getting more funding for mental health services and school security.

However, when it comes to a ban on semi-automatic rifles, like the AR-15 used in Parkland, he says he's not in favor of banning. He is though, in favor of raising age restrictions for purchasers from 18 to 21.

Simmons also believes there is a problem with the amount of violence young men, in particular, are exposed to. He feels that is also part of the problem.

"We have an epidemic of young boys who are being fed violence at a young age and acting on violence," Simmons said. "Until we get a handle on that, we are going to have young men, whether they are going to be using a shotgun, some kind of sniper weapon, anything like that to act out violence."

He feels a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons wouldn't stop the problem entirely.

"It may help contain the problem, but it will not stop it,"  Simmons said.

He believes a ban on semi-automatic weapons is an infringement on Second Amendment rights.

"We need to make sure that we are protecting the rights of all of our citizens and doing that with a balance between Second Amendment rights," Simmons said. "We have been in a middle of a civil war here, people with short memories and with the history books seem to think that nothing can happen here."

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