Stoneman Douglas Students Hold Tampa Town Hall On Gun Violence

Jul 18, 2018
Originally published on July 15, 2018 10:29 am

On the five-month anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, some of the students brought their "Road to Change" bus tour to Tampa.

The students held a town hall at the University of South Florida Saturday night, encouraging the crowd of more than 200 people to register to vote and make gun reform an important issue in the November election. Some of the March For Our Lives activists sat for a panel alongside local student organizers. The "Road To Change" tour is hosting similar town halls, rallies and voter registration drives in every Florida county.

Fifteen-year-old Stoneman Douglas student Ryan Serveitas said that, even months after the shooting, the tragedy still motivates the students on their campaign to reform gun laws.

"It's an integral part of what drives all of us: not wanting to see this happen ever again," he said. "I know when we see other shootings happening on the news, it's heartbreaking, because we are trying so hard to make sure no one has to go through that."

The students shared some of their policy platform, which includes universal background checks, taking guns away from those convicted of domestic violence and a ban on assault weapons.

Asked about the biggest challenges of this political moment, Stoneman Douglas student Alex Wind immediately said, "Money." He criticized U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida,  for taking donations from the National Rifle Association.

"Every politician that is accepting money from the NRA and other gun lobby organizations just want the money and they clearly don't care about peoples' lives, so we need to vote them out in November," Wind said.

While most of the audience supported the students, a man with the Utah Gun Exchange told the panel that some of the rhetoric has gun owners scared they may lose their Second Amendment rights. March For Our Lives activist Delaney Tarr responded that only irresponsible gun owners should be worried about the gun reforms they are asking for, and that she believes the Second Amendment allows for reasonable restrictions.

The Tampa chapter of March For Our Lives sponsored the event. Local high school students Alyssa Ackbar, Macy McClintock and Gillian Bennett also participated in the panel discussion.

Bennett, a 16-year-old Hillsborough High student, said she hopes the town hall helped inform people that have been energized by the movement.

"If you're going out there and voting and you don't know what you're voting for, that's dangerous, because you're voting for our future," she said.

March For Our Lives Tampa Bay is planning more events ahead of the election, including a music festival and voter registration drive called "Bands and Ballots" that will be held at Curtis Hixon Park on Sept. 15.

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