Chants of “Enough is enough!” reverberated down the street as hundreds of people gathered for a gun-control rally on the steps of the federal courthouse in Ft. Lauderdale, in response to a mass shooting at a Broward County high school on Wednesday.
Saturday’s speakers included students and teachers who survived the horrific event at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland —- the second-deadliest mass school shooting in the nation’s history —- along with state and local elected officials and others.
“I am not here as a candidate for governor, I am here as a mom,” Democratic gubernatorial Gwen Graham said. “And I have had it. I have had it. As a mom I am crushed. Enough. Enough. Enough.”
The League of Women Voters of Florida organized the rally to call for stricter gun control laws after gunman Nikolas Cruz shot dead 17 individuals —- including 14 teenagers —- using an assault weapon-style rifle.
Cruz, who was expelled from the high school, had such a troubled history that some of those who knew him weren’t surprised by his violent outburst. Authorities have charged the 19-year-old with 17 counts of premeditated murder.
“Sadly, my sister lost four of her friends and so many other friends and parents were lost that day, and it’s a terrible event,” said David Hogg, a student at the Parkland high school. “Now is the time that we say, ‘thank you for your prayers and condolences, but that is not enough.”
On Friday afternoon, the FBI acknowledged that it had failed to act on a tip about Cruz expressing concern about his erratic behavior.
Hogg was among the students and teachers who criticized Florida’s gun laws, questioning how individuals like Cruz are able to purchase semi-automatic weapons despite alerts to the FBI.
“Teachers should not fear for the lives of their children,” said Melissa Falkowski, the school’s journalism teacher who hid students inside a closet during the shooting.
Student Emma Gonzalez said shooting drills at schools could be stopped “when we have had our say with the government.”
“Maybe the adults have gotten used to saying, ‘it is what it is,’ but if us students have learned anything, it’s that if you don’t study, you will fail. And in this case, if you actively do nothing, people continually will end up dead,” an impassioned Gonzalez said.
Congressman Ted Deutch, whose district includes Parkland, pledged to continue to fight for common-sense gun-control laws in Washington.
“Five years ago, elementary school kids were slaughtered at Sandy Hook, and there is silence out of Washington,” Deutch, a Democrat, said. “After the horrific mass shooting here in our community, that silence will not continue.”
Like others in the crowd, Western High School junior Isabella Wood and Tara Callahan, a teacher at Lyons Creek Middle School, expressed optimism after attending the rally.
But, they said, change needs to occur for schools to feel safe again.
“It makes me sad. I shouldn’t have to come out here today,” Callahan said, holding back tears. “I shouldn’t have to see small children here today. I shouldn’t have had to come here to see teenagers here today who don’t know (if) they’re going to be able to return to their parents.”