Students from Broward county speak with Republican legislators
“He had bullets that could go on forever.”
Melissa Camilo’s voice shakes as she recalls the gunshots and horror that unfolded on Valentine’s Day at her school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.
“How many more tragedies are going to have to occur for us to make a difference, to make a change,” she pleaded, her expression stern. “How many more 15-year-olds, how many more teachers have to die?”
On Wednesday, thousands of students will descend on Florida’s Capitol in Tallahassee, where they’ll meet with lawmakers and plead for tighter gun restrictions. Camilo, a 15-year-old freshman, was one of dozens of students from the school, still reeling from the deaths of their friends, who ventured to the Capitol on Tuesday.
“My friend is dead because they’re not doing their job,” Melissa said emphatically after she and other students met with a state senator.
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Earlier that day, Melissa sat with Wang during lunch, as she always did. She loved his company. He always made her laugh. If a classmate forgot their lunch or money, he’d often share or even pay for them.
“He really cared about others,” she said. “He was just irreplaceable.”
That morning, Melissa listened to Mr. Beigel teach on the topic of world religions. He was always jovial, she remembered. “There was never a dull moment in his class.”
But hours later, Peter and Mr. Beigel were dead.
It’s for them that she came to press legislators.
“This could have all been prevented if people were doing their jobs,” she said. “And the fact that us children have to start acting like the adults and start doing the jobs of the adults, it’s really sad that we have to take action when these people have studied all their life to do a job that they’re not doing.”
Melissa posed the question of age and gun possession to state Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a Republican from southwest Florida.
In a show of solidarity, students from West Boca Raton High School walked out of their classrooms Tuesday, bound for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in nearby Parkland, where 17 students were gunned down in their classrooms last week. (Feb. 20)
“An 18-year-old kid can purchase an assault rifle, but a young 24-year-old businessman can’t rent a car,” Melissa said. “An 18-year-old kid purchased an assault rifle with mental issues previous police records and FBI warnings… Do you believe that you are doing your job in preventing these things from happening?”
Passidomo slowly chose her words as she replied.
“I don’t think there’s anyone that would dispute that someone has a mental illness or mental health issues should be able to purchase any gun,” Passidomo said.
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Spencer Blum, a 16-year-old junior who is also a survivor of the shooting, expressed his frustration at the state House’s vote against a motion to debate an assault weapons ban.
“I was speechless. I had anger, dismay, shock, to be honest,” Spencer said. “They had even introduced us, they knew we were up there. The beautiful choir sang a prayer for us. They knew we just went through a mass shooting that killed 17 people.”
Three weeks are left in this year’s Florida legislative session for legislators to enact new gun laws.
“We will not stop fighting,” Camilo said. “We will just fight forever for them (victims). We will do everything in their honor and their legacy will just go on forever.”
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