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Florida students turn up heat on lawmakers for gun action
[/url][url="]1 / 3Hundreds of students from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia staged walkouts and gathered in front of the Capitol in support of gun control
Student survivors of the Florida school shooting that saw 17 people killed in a hail of bullets last week descended on the state capital Wednesday to ramp up the pressure on lawmakers to enact tougher gun control measures.
Holding signs reading "Never Again" and "Be The Adults, Do Something," students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School rallied with thousands of supporters outside the imposing white stone-columned capitol building in Tallahassee.
"I am here to demand change from my government," student Lorenzo Prado told the crowd. "To let these victims lives be taken without any change in return is an act of treason to our great country."
"To let our fellow countrymen fall beside us without fighting back is to me equal to leaving a soldier to die in the battlefield."
Rallying in solidarity, students staged walkouts from other high schools in Florida and elsewhere vowing to make the tragedy a turning point in America's deadlocked debate on gun control.
In Washington, hundreds of local high school students gathered outside the White House chanting slogans against the National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful gun lobby, and demanding action from President Donald Trump.
Faced with the massive outpouring of grief and outrage over the Parkland, Florida shooting, Trump was to meet with parents, students and teachers at the White House on Wednesday to discuss school safety.
Trump -- who received strong backing from the NRA during his White House run -- is also showing a new-found willingness to take at least some steps on gun control.
The president threw his support on Tuesday behind moves to ban "bump stocks" -- an accessory that can turn a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic one.
Calls to ban bump stocks have been mounting since Stephen Paddock, a retired accountant, used them on several of his weapons to kill 58 concertgoers in Las Vegas in October 2017 in the deadliest mass shooting in recent US history.
Although the former student who shot dead 17 people in Florida last week did not have bump stocks on his gun, there has been a renewed focus on the devices because outlawing them is a rare point of agreement between Democrats, some Republicans and the NRA.
In Florida, more than 100 students from Stoneman Douglas travelled eight hours in buses on Tuesday to meet with state legislators and demand they action on gun laws.
- 'Things are going to change' -
"My classmates and I are probably the most determined group of people you will ever meet," said student Sofie Whitney.
"People are talking about how we aren't serious because we're children, but... we're serious."
The students' push for change hit a hurdle Tuesday when the Republican-dominated Florida House of Representatives declined to take up a debate on legislation that would have banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.
The US Congress is also deadlocked on the gun debate, accomplishing nothing since the shooting in Las Vegas.
"We must actually make a difference," Trump said Tuesday.
"We must move past cliches and tired debates and focus on evidence-based solutions and security measures that actually work," he said. "We must do more to protect our children."
"This includes implementing common sense security measures and addressing mental health issues," he said, "including better coordination between federal and state law enforcement to take swift action when there are warning signs."
Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz, 19, had a history of troubling behavior and a person close to him warned the FBI five weeks before the shooting that he was a threat -- but no action was taken.
Cruz legally bought the gun he used in the attack -- an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle -- and the White House said Tuesday it would consider raising the age for such purchases.
"I think that's certainly something that's on the table," spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
Students are planning a march on Washington next month and on Tuesday, they earned two million dollars in pledges from Hollywood A-listers George Clooney and his human rights lawyer wife Amal, Oprah Winfrey, director Steven Spielberg and film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg.
The "March for Our Lives" is scheduled to take place on March 24, with sister rallies planned across the country.
Americans support stricter gun laws by a 66 to 31 percent margin, according to a poll released on Tuesday by Quinnipiac University.
It described the margin as "the highest level of support" for stricter gun control since it began surveys on the question in 2008.