Students galvanised by the deadly mass shooting at a Florida high school confronted politicians on Wednesday at events across America, demanding more is done to protect them in their own schools.
The gun debate has long been a source of polarisation and strong rhetoric in the US, but the conversation in the wake of last week’s murder of 17 people in Florida has demonstrated a renewed sense of anger and urgency.
Donald Trump held an emotional, hour-long meeting with students who survived the Florida shooting and a parent whose child was killed, while in the Sunrise, Florida, CNN hosted a huge event attended by survivors, lawmakers and representatives of the powerful gun lobby.
Here are 13 quotes that sum up just how insane the debate has become.
I don’t understand why I could still go in a store and buy a weapon of war.Student Sam Zeif
Sam Zeif, 18, was one of the survivors of last week’s shooting who attended the listening session with President Trump at the White House on Wednesday evening.
He gave an incredibly powerful speech calling for changes in the law to limit access to guns and prevent further massacres, adding: “I lost my best friend; he was practically a brother. I’m here to use my voice because I know he can’t.”
Nikolas Cruz was able to purchase an assault rifle before he was able to buy a beer.Student Laurenzo Prado
Speaking to reporters in Sunrise, Florida, survivor Laurenzo Prado referred to a Florida law that allows people as young as 18 to buy assault weapons, saying: “The laws of the country have failed.”
People who are crazy should not be able to get firearms.NRA Spokesperson Dana Loesch
At a huge CNN event near the scene of the shooting, the National Rifle Association’s Dana Loesch told the crowd of several thousand people the gun lobby wanted to prevent people with mental illness that make them a danger to themselves and others from getting firearms, and that authorities needed to do a better job of following up on warning signs.
“I don’t believe that this insane monster should have ever been able to obtain a firearm. This individual was nuts,” she said of the suspected school shooter.
Fuck off.Amy Poehler
After Loesch’s speech, the NRA tweeted a gif featuring Amy Poehler in her role in the sitcom ‘Parks and Recreation’.
They did not ask her permission.
When we see there’s trouble we have to nab ’em.Donald Trump
Further pushing the narrative that massacres using weapons of war is a mental health issue, not a guns issue, President Trump last night appeared to lament the lack of institutions available in which mentally ill people could be preemptively locked away in.
“You know, years ago we had mental hospitals, mental institutions, we had a lot of them, and a lot of them have closed. Some people thought it was the stigma, some people thought, frankly, the legislators thought it was too expensive. Today if you catch somebody you don’t know what to do with them, he hasn’t committed the crime but he may very well. And there’s no mental institution, there’s no place to bring ’em. And we have that a lot. Even if they caught this person—I’m being nice when I use the word person—they probably wouldn’t have known what to do, they’re not gonna put him in jail. So there’s no middle ground of having that institution where you have trained people who can handle it and do something about it and find out how sick he really is. Cause he is a sick guy. And he should have been nabbed, a number of times, frankly.”
This is about funding for mental health services to help these people who are at riskNicole Hockley
Nicole Hockley lost her son during the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting. She was at the White House session last night and added: “Someone with a mental health issue is highly unlikely to commit an act of violence.
“What we’re really dealing with here is a lack of mental wellness - this is around anger and fear and that’s not something you can diagnose and put in mental health hospitals.”
He serves lunch every day but he also has a firearm at the ready.Attendant at White House listening session
During last night’s listening session Trump asked for suggestions as to how future shootings could be prevented.
One gentleman seated near the President suggested the answer lay in more armed people in schools.
He added: “If it is not the teachers, you can have a custodian, could be an undercover policeman. A guidance counsellor.
“If you can’t stop it from happening, and with hundreds of millions of guns out there - I don’t know if it will ever be fully stopped - but the challenge becomes once it starts, to end it as quickly as possible”
If you had a teacher ... who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly.President Trump
In reply the President endorsed the idea of arming teachers - he proposed 20 percent of teachers could volunteer for extra training.
And his view appears have changed dramatically since 2016.
Am I supposed to get extra training now to serve and protect? ... Am I supposed to get a Kevlar vest? Am I supposed to strap it (the gun) to my leg or put it in my desk?Teacher Ashley Kurth
Ashley Kurth, a Republican, is a teacher at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who protected 60 students from the alleged gunman in last week’s shooting.
School teachers have more than enough responsibilities right now than to have to have the awesome responsibility of lethal force to take a life.Mark Barden
Mark Barden lost a son in 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and his wife, Jackie, is currently a teacher.
Can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA?Cameron Kasky to Senator Marco Rubio
Survivor Cameron Kasky wasted no time in getting to the heart of the matter when handed the mic at the CNN event, prompting an extraordinary standing ovation (watch the full exchange below).
People buy into my agenda, I don’t buy into theirs. The influence of these groups comes not from the money, it comes from the millions of people that agree with the agenda.
Rubio’s comments ring hollow as a majority of Americans favour stricter gun laws yet legislation is repeatedly quashed by the lawmakers.
The Florida Senator was the beneficiary of over one million dollars from the NRA in 2016.
I hear you.President Trump
Pictures of the President’s cue card from the event last night reveal five talking points, the first four being questions and the last prompting him to show some empathy to survivors of the massacre.
Our kids have started a revolution.Stoneman Douglas High teacher, Diane Wolk-Rogers