Moms, teachers, students, and gun control advocates gathered outside Sen. Marco Rubio’s office on Friday for gun violence awareness day.
They stood huddled under tents and ponchos as a persistent rain drizzled down over the protest. But it couldn’t drown out their determination.
Their signs showed the names of schools that had been targeted by mass shooters, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Robb Elementary, Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech. Some of them read “protect your children, not your guns.”
In impassioned speeches, they called on Sen. Rubio to join their fight to end gun violence, even if it would mean turning his back on his donors at the National Rifle Association.
“When 17 students and teachers died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, he did nothing — nothing to stop the violence,” Samantha Barrios said into a loud speaker. Barrios is the Florida State Director for Giffords, a gun control advocacy group.
Speakers told stories of teachers defending their students from school shooters, of sons they lost to gun violence in their communities, and many focused on recent tragedies in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, as well as the shooting in Parkland four years ago.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried spoke out against Gov. Ron DeSantis’ push for constitutional carry laws. She blasted him for vetoing 83 positions she requested for concealed weapons permitting, which she said is the largest program in the country.
“This is a signal to the people of our state that Ron DeSantis wants open carry,” she said. “That is the wrong direction for our state.”
To date, her office has rejected some 7,000 applications for concealed weapons permits because of issues with background checks, she said.
“Those 7,000 people would be able to walk around our streets with open carry,” she said.
David Hogg, who survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, was the last to speak. He said he wanted to change the perspective on the gun debate. “This is not about being anti-gun, or pro-gun, this is about being pro-peace,” he said.
He urged others to put their politics aside and instead put their morals front and center. “We have Republicans with us, we have gun owners with us, we have non-gun owners with us, and we have Democrats with us,” he said.
“When our Senate’s only reaction a week after a shooting is to go on recess — why should our senators be able to go on recess when 19 elementary school students can’t, because they’re dead.”