Florida teenagers fight for stricter gun laws

Turning point? Students, including Emma Gonzalez, will march in Washington next month. © Getty

Can the survivors of a high school shooting change America’s gun laws? This weekend, days after 17 of their classmates and teachers were killed, students made a passionate plea for action.

“We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. Not because we're going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America... we are going to be the last mass shooting.”

Standing in front of a podium, 18-year-old Emma Gonzalez was clearly furious.

She was speaking at a rally in Florida on Saturday afternoon. On Wednesday, she hid in her school while a 19-year-old ex-student shot and killed 17 people. He has since been arrested.

Florida’s gun laws allow anyone over 18 to buy powerful assault rifles. The suspect passed a background check, despite the fact that his behaviour had been reported to the authorities several times. The FBI has also admitted that it failed to follow up on a warning about him in January.

The school’s students were all born shortly after the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999. At the time, this was seen as a defining moment for the USA. Many schools introduced stricter security, but gun laws have barely changed. In the meantime, mass shootings have become more common.

But what happened last week “is not just another mass shooting”, insisted student David Hogg. “This needs to be a turning point.”

Will it?

Crossfire

Past experience suggests not, argue some. US gun laws are incredibly complicated. The Republican Party has shown little sign of wanting to change them, and they are the ones in power right now. If Barack Obama, who wanted stricter laws, could not make change happen then it is unlikely that Donald Trump will.

This time is different, say others, and for one reason: the students. School shooting survivors have never been so public, their anger never so intense, as right now. “We’re gonna use this to try and make something better,” said student Cameron Kasky. “This is something that will be stopped.” He could be right.

You Decide

  1. Will this latest shooting be a turning point for America’s gun laws?

Activities

  1. Watch and read the comments from some of the teenager survivors, using the CNN link under Become An Expert. Then write a list of five questions that you would ask them if you were a journalist.

Some People Say...

“The guns and the bombs, the rockets and the warships, are all symbols of human failure.”

Lyndon B. Johnson, former US president.

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The shooting took place on Wednesday, February 14th, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. It lasted six minutes, during which time 17 people were killed. The suspect, Nikolas Cruz, was arrested around an hour later.
What do we not know?
Although Cruz has pleaded guilty to 17 charges of murder, it is unclear what his motivations were for the attack.

Word Watch

19-year-old
The suspect’s name is Nikolas Cruz.
Assault rifles
Rifles similar to those used in the military, which can fire ammunition automatically, or semi-automatically.
FBI
The security service said it has received a tipoff that Cruz was behaving erratically and might attack a school, but did not investigate thoroughly enough.
Columbine
This was America’s worst high school shooting until last week. A school walk-out is planned for its 19th anniversary on April 20th.

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