Movement pushes Florida lawmakers, state leaders to make change

Posted at 12:56 PM, Feb 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-25 12:56:48-05

On Monday, February 19th, a memorial starts to grow outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

"It's heart wrenching, it's devastating,"  said one parent.

Seventeen crosses for the 17 killed in this tragic shooting on the school grounds.

"I don't think anyone can wrap their minds around this," said another parent.

People writing messages and leaving flowers.

Special section: Parkland school shooting

"Just shaken us all up and we had to do something even if it's the smallest little gesture.We had to bring flowers, ballons, we had to do something."

Meanwhile at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts, students, parents, and activists hold a rally.

"No one should feel unsafe at a school where we're supposed to learn about life," said Stoneman Douglas student Alex Wind. "People are dying, children are dying. When does it stop? It stops right now."

Tuesday, February 20, 100 Stoneman Douglas students meet outside a Parkland Publix. There are three buses.

"Today me and a hundred other of my colleagues are traveling to the State Capital of Tallahassee to meet with state legislators to try and draft up some bills with common sense gun laws and extensive background checks," said student Chris Grady.

"I'm here today because I'm here to fight for my friends rights because they did not get to walk the halls protected. They did not get to be safe because of guns," said student Tyra Hemans.

"I know on the bus we're already all planning to do hardcore research. We're not going to go in there with empty thoughts. We're going to know what we're talking about and it's time for change to happen," said student Tanzil Philip.

The students traveled six and a half hours to Tallahassee. They arrived at Leon High School. Students from that high school were waiting for them.

Student Alfonso Calderon addressed the crowd.

"We're going to talk to these politicians tomorrow, we're going to talk to them the day after that and we're going to keep talking. We're going to keep pushing until something is done because people are dying and this can't happen anymore," said Calderon.

On February 21, 100 students from Stoneman Douglas met with lawmakers and state leaders including Senate President Joe Negron, Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Governor Rick Scott.

"Because of guns I can't walk these streets again, I can't go to an airport because I'm scared of hearing shots. I can't walk my hallways because I'm always reminded of an AR-15 assault weapon," said Hemans to Senate President Joe Negron.

"How is it possible that this boy that we all knew was disturbed was able to get an assault rifle and come to our school and try to kill us," another student asked Negron.

"It's an issue that we're going to look at," said Negron.

Most of the students were frustrated with the response.

"We were so optimistic that we really could make a change that we as students at Stoneman Douglas and we could make a change, but it seems these politicians are refusing to listen to us," said student Olivia Feller.

"We know what we want. We want gun reform, we want common sense gun laws. We want stronger mental health checks and background checks to work in conjunction. We want a better age limit," said student Delaney Tarr at a press conference after meeting with lawmakers.

"I can vote and I know who I'm not voting for. These people who I've been meeting with, these people I've seen," said student Ryan Deitsch at the press conference.

Outside the Capitol, thousands rallied on the front steps demanding change.

On Friday, February 23, Governor Rick Scott held a press conference to announce a multi-point action plan to improve student safety.

Scott said he wants to use $500 million to improve school safety and mental health.

His plan includes requiring all individuals purchasing firearms to be 21 or older. Mandatory law enforcement officers in every public school. One officer per 1,000 students to be implemented by the start of the 2018 school year.

His plan also includes mandatory active-shooter drills and code red system. Also a new anonymous K-12 "See Something, Say Something" statewide, dedicated hotline website and mobile app.

"My message to them has been very simple. You are not alone. Change is coming and it will come fast," said Governor Rick Scott.

Reporter Alex Hagan is covering the students from Majory Stoneman Douglas High who are leading the #NeverAgain movement. Follow him on Twitter @AlexHagan_WPTV.