Hours before the Senate prepared to debate a package of reforms following the Parkland shooting, several hundred protesters gathered outside the Capitol on Monday morning calling for more substantial gun control measures.
Despite rain that prompted some to wrap their signs in plastic and wrestle on ponchos, the orange-clad crowd marched from the Tucker Civic Center up Duval Street, tracing the same path that about 100 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students had walked before they lobbied lawmakers last Wednesday. Several politicians — including gubernatorial candidate and former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine, House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz and Sens. Gary Farmer and Kevin Rader — called for the Legislature to further restrict access to guns, as the crowd cheered and waved signs declaring “no NRA money” and “enough is enough.”
“You know the NRA? You know what it stands for? Not Responsible for Anything!” said Levine. “They’re not responsible for the 300 million guns around the country, they’re not responsible for these assault rifles that are killing people in our schools.”
Levine, whose appearance at the rally coincided with a $725,000, nine-day campaign ad promising he would push for an assault weapons ban as governor, accused lawmakers in Tallahassee of “trying to run out the clock” on gun control. “The time is now,” he said.
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Bella Urbina, a 10th grader at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, said two weeks ago that her school “became a statistic for gun violence. … We are here today to add a story to that statistic, a story that ends in a better and safer America.”
“This is not OK!” she added, as the crowd echoed her chant. “Not OK!”
Rader, who represents Parkland, called on members of the crowd to attend the Senate Rules committee’s afternoon meeting. In an unusual move, the committee planned to open up an overflow room for people to watch the proceedings on television.
“We need to take our message to this building right behind you and let them know how you feel about common-sense gun safety,” Rader said. “For years, smart gun legislation has not gone through this building behind you. Instead, the NRA has gotten whatever they wanted passed.”
The package of changes put forth by legislators includes a three-day waiting period for purchasing guns and raising the age to purchase most weapons to 21. Though it stops short of banning the purchase of assault rifles, the NRA has said it opposes both the waiting period and raising the age limit.
Several signs at the protest called for banning assault weapons entirely, and one demonstrator carried with her an orange — about the size of a typical exit wound caused by a bullet shot by an AR-15, she said.
“It’s not just a couple of kids who are upset,” Alicia Marcantonio said, as she held out the piece of fruit. A 32-year-old mother of three from Jacksonville, she added that she had bought bulletproof boards for each of her kids — the youngest of whom is 8 — to try and protect them in the event of a school shooter. “They need to be safe.”