After a mass shooting left 17 students and faculty dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Parkland, many area students — instead of withdrawing into the solitude of grief — have thrown themselves into the spotlight in anger and frustration.
They’re too young to vote. But in national TV interviews, in viral posts on social media, at protests outside schools, the students have chosen to make a noisy message clear to the politicians who represent them: They want stronger gun control.
The students speaking up this week are part of a post-Columbine generation that has grown up with school shootings in the news and an ever-present topic of discussion in their schools and homes.
Now that tragedy has come to them, they have lost all confidence in the ability of adults to protect them — a feeling reinforced by details that have emerged since the massacre.
The FBI revealed that over the last year it received two tips warning that suspect Nikolas Cruz, 19, might carry out a school shooting. But Cruz was never questioned.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office said it had received 20 calls for service about Cruz in recent years, and Cruz was kicked out of school for disciplinary reasons.
But Cruz was still able to legally buy an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle after he turned 18. In the end, the school district’s preventative measures — which included safety monitors, on-campus police officers and school-shooting drills — were unable to prevent the massacre.
It’s not that the school wasn’t prepared, said Taylor Yon, a 16-year-old sophomore.
“We had been doing drills on this in the past month,” said Yon, who survived the shooting by crouching in a corner of her second-floor classroom, listening to gunshots and screams outside the door. “In every single class period, my teachers had gone through safety protocols. We have safety zones, we have protocols for every single emergency, and this thing still happened.”
“I don’t understand how a 19-year-old who is obviously troubled and has all these problems is able to get a gun like that,” Yon said.
Hogg, who is student director of the school television station, was particularly upset with what he called President Trump’s “extremely hypocritical” comments following the shooting. Trump focused on mental health and on reporting disturbing behavior to the authorities.
“He didn’t even mention guns,” said Hogg, who hid in a classroom and interviewed other students about the shooting as they waited for police. “These are children’s lives being taken and nothing is being done. Now is the time for action. If our legislators don’t take action, how can we ever feel safe?”
After mass shootings, affected communities’ responses often reflect prevailing local politics. In more rural, conservative communities such as Sutherland Springs, Texas, and Roseburg, Ore., residents have generally been more skeptical that tighter gun controls would prevent mass shootings.
But in the 2016 presidential election, Broward County voters preferred Hillary Clinton to President Trump by more than 2 to 1. The teens’ calls for stronger gun control have been echoed by parents, the school district’s superintendent and the county sheriff.
“If you want to keep gun laws as they are now, you will not get reelected in Broward County,” Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told a crowd of mourners at a Thursday night vigil.