23 Feb 2018

Watch: School shooting survivors confront NRA, politicians

2:29 pm on 23 February 2018

A public event allowing survivors of the shooting at a Florida school last week to speak their minds to power grew heated, touching on gun control and school safety.

Last week 17 people, mainly teenagers, died when a 19-year-old armed with an assault rifle opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The students have self-organised an effort to find solutions to the continued school shootings in the United States.

Facing rising calls for stronger gun control, President Donald Trump had met with some of the survivors and those from other shootings in a "listening session", where he called for some teachers and school staff to be trained to use concealed guns which they would carry on their person at school.

CNN held its 'town hall' event in Parkland, bringing the students, parents and teachers together and giving them a chance to speak directly to politicians and the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Scroll to the bottom to watch the full hour-and-a-half event.

Those on stage facing questions included:

  • Republican Senator for Florida Marco Rubio
  • Democrat Senator for Florida Ben Nelson
  • Florida 22nd district Congressman Ted Deutch, Democrat
  • Broward county Sheriff Scott Israel
  • NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch

The NRA has faced criticism over the years over its staunch support of the second amendment, the right to bear arms. Since the event, NRA vice president Wayne LaPierre hit back with an unrepentant defence of gun rights and an aggressive attack on political elites who he said "hate individual freedom".

'My daughter ... was shot in the back': Grieving father spars with Senator Rubio

Republican senator for Florida Marco Rubio was at the event on Thursday night.

Fred Guttenberg, a father to one of those killed during the shooting in Parkland on 14 February, asked him to commit to doing something about guns.

"Your comments this week and those of our President have been pathetically weak."

Mr Rubio said he would explain what he said during the week, and repeat it.

He said he "absolutely" accepted that guns were a factor in the attack. He said he would support raising the age for owning a rifle to 21, banning bump stocks, expanding background checks and rolling out a threat assessment initiative fund nationwide.

"But I think what you are asking about is the so-called assault weapons ban ... It basically bans 220 models of gun, but it allows legal 2000 other types of gun that are identical."

That answer was not good enough for Mr Guttenberg, however.

"Senator Rubio, My daughter running down the hallway at Marjory Stone and Douglas was shot in the back with an assault weapon, the weapon of choice. Okay? It is a weapon of war.

"The fact that you can't stand with everybody in this building and say that - I'm sorry."

"Are you saying you would start with the 200 and work your way up? It's a place to start, we could do that."

But Mr Rubio stuck to his guns.

"My belief remains that rather than try to continue to try to chase every loophole that's created ... we instead should make sure that dangerous criminals, people that are deranged, cannot buy any gun of any kind."

Mr Guttenberg said the senator's answer spoke for itself.

Marco Rubio refuses to reject NRA donations

Survivor Cameron Kasky: "Senator Rubio, can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA now and in the future?"

Senator Marco Rubio: "The answer to the question is that people buy into my agenda. And I do support the second amendment and I also support the right of you or anybody to go to school and be safe.

"And I do support any law that would keep guns out of the hands of a deranged killer."

"The influence of these groups come not from money, the influence of these groups come from the millions of people that agree with the agenda.

Kasky: "So right now in the name of 17 people you cannot ask the NRA to keep their money out of your campaign?

"As a matter of fact I bet we can get people in here to give you exactly as much money as the NRA would have.

Rubio: "There is money of both sides of every issue in America and where that leaves us in policymaking is to look at the issues and make a decision based on what we think is right... I will always accept the help of anyone that supports my agenda."

Survivor Emma Gonzalez confronts NRA representative Dana Loesch

Survivors Emma Gonzalez, who last week made a speech criticising US President Donald Trump and the NRA specifically, got the chance to confront NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch.

"The shooter at our school obtained weapons that he used on us legally. Do you believe it should be harder to obtain these semiautomatic weapons and modifications to make them automatic such as bump stocks?

"We've been actually talking about that for a long time ... it is not a law for states to report convictions to the Nix system.

"Do you guys want to stop mentally insane individuals from getting firearms? They have to be in the system if they are convicted."

"This individual, this madman passed a background check.

The young Ms Gonzalez brought the focus back to her question.

"I'm just gonna interrupt you real quick and remind you that the question is actually do you believe it should be harder to obtain these semiautomatic weapons and modifications to make them automatic such as bump stocks.

Loesch: "Well I think the ATF is deciding about bump stocks right now, the president ordered the DOJ to look into it... "

Gonzalez: "I'm asking your opinion as a representative of the NRA."

Loesch: "That's what the NRA's position has been. I'm talking for them ... so that answers your question with that."

She was then interrupted by Sheriff Scott Israel, who runs the area's police and also called for better gun control last week.

"I understand that you are speaking for the NRA and I understand that that's what you're supposed to do. Buy you just told this group of people that you are standing up for them.

"You're not standing up for them until you say 'I want less weapons'."

Watch the full event:

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