Florida students walk out of schools, press lawmakers for tougher gun laws

Scores of students began walking out of their Florida schools Wednesday to show solidarity for the Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School shooting victims while pushing for tighter gun control in the wake of the massacre.

The walkouts happened as thousands converged in the state’s capital, hundreds of miles away from the Parkland school, to press legislators to take action.

"We've spoke to only a few legislators, and, try as they might, the most we've gotten out of them is `We'll keep you in our thoughts. You are so strong. You are so powerful,"' Delaney Tarr, a senior at the school, told the Associated Press. "We know what we want. We want gun reform. We want common sense gun laws...We want change."

She added: "We've had enough of thoughts and prayers. If you supported us, you would have made a change long ago. So this is to every lawmaker out there: No longer can you take money from the NRA. We are coming after you. We are coming after every single one of you, demanding that you take action."

One sign outside the capitol building in Tallahassee read "Remember the men who value the NRA over children's lives" and then listed Republicans in Florida's Congressional delegation, the Associated Press reported. Another sign said: "Kill the NRA, not our kids" and "These kids are braver than the GOP."

The teens split into several groups to talk with lawmakers and other state leaders about gun control, the legislative process, and mental health issues. Some tearfully asked why civilians should be allowed to have weapons such as the one fired in the attack one week ago that left 17 dead.

When Florida's Senate President Joe Negron heard the question, he did not answer directly: "That's an issue that we're reviewing." When another lawmaker said he supported raising the age to buy assault-style weapons to 21 from 18, the students broke into applause.

The Florida Senate opened its session by showing pictures of all 17 victims in the attack.

"There are some really harrowing tales here," said Democratic Sen. Lauren Book of Broward County, who helped organize busloads of students who arrived at the Capitol late Tuesday. She stayed overnight with the students in Tallahassee's Civic Center and said they stayed up until 5 a.m., researching, writing and preparing to talk with politicians.

"It has been a very, very difficult, tough night. It's in those quiet moments that the reality of this stuff, without all the noise sets in. In any given moment, there's tears. It's raw and it's there."

About 100 students from the high school made the 400-mile trip on three buses. They told the 500 students and parents waiting for them that they were fighting to protect all students.

"We're what's making the change. We're going to talk to these politicians. ... We're going to keep pushing until something is done because people are dying and this can't happen anymore," said Alfonso Calderon, a 16-year-old junior.

Students at Western High School in Davie were also protesting gun violence during a walkout Wednesday morning.

Students carried large signs, each listing the name of a school where a shooting has taken place, along with the date of the shooting and the number of dead. Others carried signs with #NeverAgain.

Students at schools across Broward and Miami-Dade counties in South Florida also planned short walkouts Wednesday, the one week anniversary of the deadly shooting.

Kirsten Anderson, a sophomore at Western High, told NBC6 that students will be signing a large banner, which will be taken to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High to offer support to students and teachers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.