Students, parents, educators, and the NRA gathered under one roof on Wednesday night to talk about how best to move forward one week after a mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school claimed 17 lives. The town-hall style event hosted by CNN's ...and more »
CNN town hall on gun violence students, teachers, politicians, the NRA - Business Insider
Screenshot via CNNStudents, parents, educators, and the NRA gathered under one roof on Wednesday night to talk about how best to move forward, one week after a mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school claimed 17 lives.
The town-hall style event hosted by CNN's Jake Tapper follows days of heated discourse over gun rights in America.
President Donald Trump held a listening session with school-shooting survivors earlier Wednesday, but declined an invite to attend the town hall, CNN said, though he has indicated his willingness to explore new gun-reform options.
A town-hall meeting held in Sunrise, Florida, on Wednesday night brought together students, parents, educators, politicians, and the NRA under one roof to talk about ways to move forward, one week after the February 14 school shooting that ended the lives of 17 people.
The event, hosted by CNN's Jake Tapper, comes after days of heated discourse around gun rights in America. That discussion focused acutely on whether laws should be changed in order to help prevent mass shootings. Such incidents have increased in regularity in the US over the past two decades.
Dubbed "Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action," the town hall opened with a tribute to the 17 people who were killed in the February 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Within the first five minutes, Bill Nelson, the Democratic senator from Florida, called for "getting assault rifles off the streets," prompting a standing ovation.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida followed Nelson, acknowledging the shortcomings of his own party with regard to gun-law reform, and lamenting the fraught political discourse currently roiling the US. Rubio soon got an earful from Fred Guttenberg, the father of a 14-year-old girl who was killed in the Parkland, Florida, shooting.
Guttenberg told Rubio that his words and those of President Donald Trump on the matter of gun violence have been "pathetically weak."
Trump earlier Wednesday floated the possibility of arming teachers as a deterrent. The idea received mixed reactions, including from a Stoneman Douglas High School teacher, Ashley Kurth, who asked Rubio for his thoughts on the proposal. Rubio said he does not support it. Sen. Nelson echoed the same.
Kurth, who is a pro-gun, pro-Trump voter, urged Trump and congressional leaders last week to take action on gun reform.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Cameron Kasky (L) asks Senator Marco Rubio if he will continue to accept money from the NRA during a CNN town hall meeting, at the BB&T Center, in Sunrise, Florida, U.S. February 21, 2018.
REUTERS/Michael Laughlin/PoolIn another particularly heated exchange, a student confronted Rubio, asking him to say whether or not he would accept campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association. Rubio did not answer the question, prompting some jeers from the audience. The senator insisted that his campaign donors buy into his agenda, and asserted that he does not serve theirs.
Rubio took several blows during the event, but he also staked out positions on a number of gun-rights issues. He said he supports raising the minimum age required to buy certain guns saying, "I absolutely believe that in this country if you are 18 years of age, you should not be able to buy a rifle."
Rubio also said he would reconsider his previous positions on high-capacity magazines, insisting "we can reach a compromise" on that matter. Lawmakers have argued that restricting large magazine clips, effectively limiting the number of bullets a gunman can shoot before they have to reload, could save lives. Rubio echoed the point, but conceded that "it may not prevent an attack."
Student survivors of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas have been especially vocal in the days after the attack, and that remained true at Wednesday night's town hall. They challenged lawmakers to answer for their actions, or lack thereof, on gun-law reform.
"Will my school campus be safe when I return," one student asked. In response, Florida Rep. Ted Deutch said state law-enforcement officials, school administrators, and "everyone who's focused on school security" would ensure student safety.
Deutch also made a broader point, urging federal lawmakers to follow through on legislation banning bump stocks and beefing up background checks for gun purchases — two proposals Trump has touted this week.
National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch (R) answers a question while sitting next to Broward Sheriff Scott Israel during a CNN town hall meeting, at the BB&T Center, in Sunrise, Florida, U.S. February 21, 2018.
REUTERS/Michael Laughlin/PoolThe NRA takes some heat
The National Rifle Association spokeswoman, Dana Loesch, faced some pointed questions, and at times, clashed with the audience and the Broward County Sheriff, Scott Israel, during another segment of the event.
Emma Gonzalez, one of the most vocal survivors of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, asked Loesch whether she believes it should be more difficult for people to obtain semi-automatic weapons and modifications like bump stocks that can mimic fully automatic weapons.
"I don't believe that this insane monster should have ever been able to obtain a firearm, ever" Loesch said, referring to the 19-year-old Parkland gunman Nikolas Cruz. "I do not think that he should have gotten his hands on any kind of weapon."
"This individual was nuts, and I — nor the millions of people that I represent as a part of this organization that I'm here speaking for — none of us support people who are crazy, who are a danger to themselves, who are a danger to others, getting their hands on a firearm," Loesch said.
The NRA spokeswoman insisted that she is fighting for survivors like Gonzalez, so they won't have to "be in this position again."
That comment apparently did not sit well with some of the attendees, including Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who challenged Loesch on the assertion: "You're not standing up for them until you say, 'I want less weapons,'" Israel said, amid raucous cheering and applause.
The debate over how much culpability to apply to gun-advocacy groups like the NRA has been fraught and largely unresolved, even as mass-shootings have increased in regularity in the US.
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