Students in the gallery of the Florida state Capitol were overcome with emotion when the House rejected a ban on many semiautomatic guns and large capacity magazines on Tuesday, less than one week after the fatal mass shooting at their high school.
Lawmakers voted down a motion to consider the ban during a session heavily attended by students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Before the vote, the House opened with a prayer for the 17 people who were killed by Nikolas Cruz, a former student who unleashed gunfire with an AR-15 rifle in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday.
When the vote in the Republican-dominated body stood 36-71 against the ban, the Stoneman Douglas students attending the session became visibly upset, crying and hugging their classmates.
One photo of 16-year-old junior Sheryl Acquaroli showed her bursting into tears and covering her mouth in disbelief of the outcome. She and dozens of other students had traveled to the Capitol in hopes to turn their grief into political action.
A student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was overcome with emotion after the Florida state House voted against taking up a bill that would ban assault weapons and large capacity magazines https://t.co/MAXehN2Dn5 pic.twitter.com/YFZN34Uu7m— CNN (@CNN) February 21, 2018
"It was just so heartbreaking to see how many (voters') names were up there, especially after it was my school," Acquaroli later told Anderson Cooper 360˚. "It seemed almost heartless how they immediately pushed the button to say no."
Her classmate Spencer Blum added that he felt like lawmakers were not representing him and other survivors of the Valentine’s Day shooting.
“That’s unacceptable,” he told CNN of the vote. “It shows they don’t care about us.”
Acquaroli added that the next person who is killed by an AR-15 rifle, the same one used by Cruz at her school, will be at the fault of the 71 lawmakers who voted no in the session.
“They had a chance to stop it today,” she said. “If there is another mass shooting (in Florida) it’s going to be their fault.”
Despite the House’s decision not to consider a ban on many assault weapons in Florida, Governor Rick Scott held a roundtable Tuesday to discuss school safety. He said he planned to have a proposal by Friday.
"My goal is to come up with something that is going to move the needle and make parents feel more comfortable that their kids going to go to a safe school. That's the goal," he said. "These kids have got to go to safe schools."