US students plan events to demand gun controls

Max Bromberg hugs his brother Samuel, both of whom graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, as they visit a makeshift memorial setup in front of the school.
Max Bromberg hugs his brother Samuel, both of whom graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, as they visit a makeshift memorial setup in front of the school.PHOTO: AFP

PARKLAND (Florida) • Stunned by the deadliest high school shooting in US history, students mobilised across the country to organise rallies and a national walkout in support of stronger gun laws, challenging politicians they say have failed to protect them.

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, where a former student is accused of murdering 17 people last Wednesday using an assault-style rifle, joined others on social media to plan the events.

"I felt like it was time to take a stand," said Lane Murdock, 15, of Connecticut. "We're the ones in these schools, we're the ones who are having shooters come into our classrooms and our spaces." Murdock, who lives 32km from Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 children and six adults were shot to death five years ago, drew more than 50,000 signatures on an online petition on Sunday calling on students to walk out of their high schools on April 20.

Instead of going to classes, she urged her fellow students to stage protests on the 19th anniversary of an earlier mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.

Students from the Florida high school are planning a "March for Our Lives" in Washington on March 24 to call attention to school safety and ask lawmakers to enact gun control.

They also plan to rally for gun control, mental health issues and school safety tomorrow in Tallahassee, the state capital.

The demands for change by many still too young to vote have inflamed the country's long-simmering debate between advocates for gun control and gun ownership.

Students from the Florida school have lashed out at political leaders, including Republican President Donald Trump, for inaction on the issue. Many criticised Mr Trump for insensitivity after he said in a weekend Twitter post that the FBI may have been too distracted with a Russia probe to follow leads that could have prevented the massacre.

"You can't blame the bureaucracy for this when it's you, Mr President, who's overall responsible," said David Hogg, an 18-year-old senior from the Florida school.

The White House said Mr Trump planned to host "a listening session" with high school students and teachers tomorrow.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2018, with the headline 'US students plan events to demand gun controls'. Print Edition | Subscribe