This is what happened Tuesday in the Florida House of Representatives as students from a high school where 17 people were fatally shot last week descended to urge legislators to take gun control seriously:
— Members of the body debated and then voted to declare pornography a “public health risk.”
— Members of the body refused to take up a bill to ban assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School watching from the gallery. The Parkland, Fla., school is where a former student is accused of walking in and firing on Valentine’s Day. Sheryl Acquarola, a 16-year-old junior who had traveled to Tallahassee with fellow student survivors to speak with government officials, was overcome with emotion, as captured in the photo above.
— An aide to a member of the Florida House claimed that two of the Parkland students speaking out on gun violence were “actors” and was fired a short time later.
The action — and non-action — occurred six days after the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High. In that time, student survivors organized nationwide protests for March 24 and took buses on Tuesday to Tallahassee to urge state officials to take seriously issues they believe contribute to school shootings, including the easy availability of assault weapons and inadequate funding for mental health funding.
During Tuesday’s House debate on the pornography measure, Orlando Democrat Carlos G. Smith challenged the sponsor, Republican Ross Spano from Dover, Fla., asking whether Spano thought gun violence was a serious health issue in the state, FloridaPolitics.com reported. Smith did not get an answer.
Spano’s original measure actually called pornography a “public health crisis,” but he changed the language before the vote, with a “crisis” becoming a “risk.”
Also on Tuesday, President Trump directed the Justice Department to draft a ban on devices known as “bump stocks,” which can be attached to a legal semiautomatic gun and allow a shooter to fire up to 100 rounds in seven seconds, similar to an illegal machine gun. The shooter in the October massacre in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead used a bump stock. And The Washington Post reported that Trump has told advisers and friends he may push for further gun control efforts.
The students planning next month’s March for Our Lives in Washington and other cities around the country have received $500,000 from George and Amal Clooney and a matching $500,000 from Oprah Winfrey.
Dan Sweeney covers Florida state politics for the South Florida Sun Sentinel, and he tweeted Tuesday’s debate, step by step: