Students who survived the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday, February 14, recently announced plans to march on Washington in a bid to "shame" politicians into reforming laws that make firearms readily available.
The "March for Our Lives" will take place on March 24, with sister rallies planned across the country. Students pledged to make Wednesday's slaughter in Parkland, Fla., a turning point in America's deadlocked debate on gun control.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, confessed to killing 17 people with a legally-purchased AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, the latest such atrocity in a country with more than 30,000 gun-related deaths annually.
Among the students announcing the march was Emma Gonzalez, who captured worldwide attention with a powerful speech in which she assailed President Donald Trump over the multi-million-dollar support his campaign received from the gun lobby. She vowed Stoneman Douglas would be "the last mass shooting."
On Sunday, Gonzalez, 18, urged politicians to join a conversation about gun control – citing Trump as well as his fellow Republicans Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Rick Scott.
"We want to give them the opportunity to be on the right side of this," Gonzalez said as she and her four classmates called on students nationwide to help push the message.
Singling out the links between politicians and the powerful National Rifle Association, Stoneman Douglas student Cameron Kasky said any politician "who is taking money from the NRA is responsible for events like this."
"This isn't about the GOP," Kasky said, referring to the Republican Party. "This isn't about the Democrats."
The NRA, a traditional ally of the Republicans who currently control Congress and the White House, defends a literal view of the US Constitution 2nd Amendment which promises a right "to keep and bear arms."
Even after last October's killing of 58 people by a gunman in Las Vegas who amassed 47 firearms to commit the worst mass shooting in recent US history, legislators accomplished nothing in the way of tighter controls.
Accusing the NRA of "fostering and promoting this gun culture," Kasky said the students seek "a new normal where there's a badge of shame on any politician who's accepting money from the NRA."
Students around the country are walking out of class to demand tougher gun laws in response to last week's deadly shooting, but many schools across the country are threatening them with punishments such as suspension, like the schools in the Texas district of Needville, who are telling student protestors that they will be suspended for three days if they walk out of class.
"We are the opposite, we stand by our students," said Patricia Guillen, a representative for Ganesha High School in Pomona. "If the students will protest, an administrator will not interfere, but they will walk behind them for safety reasons."
The Douglas High School students did not indicate how many people they expected to join their rallies, but their aims won support from politicians who are working towards bipartisan solutions that could prevent similar tragedies, as well as people around the nation who said they can make a difference by bringing into light reasonable gun safety laws.