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Survivor of the Florida school shooting calls for marches all over the world

Monday 19th February 2018

A movement to end school shootings.



Student Angelia Lazo holds up a sign while standing near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed.

Photo: AFP

Seventeen students and staff were killed when a former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the deadliest US school shooting since 2012.

In the aftermath of the shooting students who survived have been vocal in their anger at the lack of gun control laws in the US.

Five students recently announced on US television that they will lead a nationwide March for Our Lives - with the hashtag #NeverAgain - on March 24 to call for action on gun laws.

One of the founding members, Alfonso Calderon, survived the massacre by hiding in a closet with classmates for three hours.

He told RNZ that the group wants to send a message that gun laws in the country, after yet another massacre, needed to change.

"They must change because kids are being slaughtered senselessly. Seventeen of my friends were killed because of the NRA (National Rifle Association) and people who think that more guns are going to help."

Alfonso called for marches all over the world in solidarity with upcoming march in the US.

“This is not a US thing; it’s a world thing. If we want serious and actual change, we need the entire world to pressure our government and our president that they’re not going to work with them unless change is enacted.” 

The suspected gunman, Nikolas Cruz, 19, has admitted the attack and has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

Cruz was an ex-student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Authorities have so far offered no details about his possible motive, except to say that he was expelled from the high school last year.

Nikolas Cruz appears in court charged with 17 counts of murder.

Photo: AFP

Cruz was armed with an AR-15 style rifle, smoke grenades, gas mask and multiple ammunition magazines when he surrendered to officers in a nearby residential area, police said.

Police and former classmates said he loved guns and was expelled for unspecified disciplinary reasons.

Alfonso said Nikolas Cruz was troubled in every way imaginable and had been reported to the police 39 times since 2010, as well as having been expelled from school.

"He was still completely able to just go to the gun store, show them his ID and buy an assault rifle. He bought an AR-15. It's just unacceptable."

He says the money from gun lobbyist accepted by US politicians is “disgusting”.

“These are politicians that I don’t think want the blood of kids on their hands but they’re just too greedy to realise that what they're doing is just disgusting.”

"I can't even begin to describe how much it saddens me that great people lost their lives because the government and the politicians didn't care enough.

"They didn't care enough to enact sensible gun laws, they didn't care enough to pass screenings strict enough so that someone who is clearly mentally ill, who is clearly unable to wield a semi-automatic weapon, an AR-15, a weapon of war, a military grade weapon - it's honestly heartbreaking," he says.

A hug at a police check point near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after the shooting.

Photo: AFP

On Saturday students and their parents - as well as politicians - took part in an emotionally-charged rally in Fort Lauderdale, close to Parkland.

In an emotionally-charged speech, high school student Emma Gonzalez directly called out Trump and the NRA at the rally.

"If the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I'm going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association," she said.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA spent $US11.4m supporting Mr Trump in the 2016 campaign, and $US19.7m opposing Hillary Clinton.

"To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA - shame on you!" said Emma.

Yesterday President Trump blamed the FBI for missing the signals, after the organisation admitted it had failed to act on a tip-off about the suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz.

But people are angry at what they see as Trump trying to divert attention from real issues.

Florida shooting is worst attack on a high school to date  and of the deadliest 13 mass shootings, nine have occurred post-Columbine

Since the Columbine High School massacre shooting in 1999, more than 150,000 students attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus.

According to the Washington Post, about two dozen children are shot every day in the United States, and in 2016 more young people were killed by gunfire (1637) than during any previous year this millennium.

Gun homicide rates are 25.2 times higher in the US than in other high-income counties.

In New Zealand, total gun homicide rate per 100,000 people was about 0.2 compared to 0.5 in Canada, 0.0 in the UK and 3.6 in the US in 2010.

Last year, a Select Committee put forward 20 recommendations which focused on reducing the access of firearms for criminals and gangs in New Zealand.

Then-Police Minister Paula Bennett consulted with independent firearms experts, and accepted seven recommendations, but rejected 12.   

"We needed to strike the right balance between public safety and the rights of legal firearms owners," she said at the time.

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Mava is an award-winning journalist, formally with The Wireless.
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