After Parkland: A timeline of gun-control activism, legislation

After Parkland: A timeline of gun-control activism, legislation
UPI

April 12 (UPI) — When 17 people were slain on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Americans decried the state of gun violence, school safety and lack of help for the mentally ill. Again.

But this time, the school’s teen survivors were not satisfied with everyone’s “thoughts and prayers.” Declaring, via hashtag, #Enough and #NeverAgain, they rallied. Students around the world joined them. Policymakers, parents and celebrities supported them. Some states moved immediately to change laws. (Florida increased school security funding and passed new gun restrictions in rare defiance of the National Rifle Association).

Whether meaningful change comes remains to be seen. Here’s a timeline of what’s happened so far:

On their feet

Within hours of the mass shooting, a number of Douglas students gave interviews with the media — reporting on what they saw or heard at the time of the attack or detailing how they couldn’t locate a friend. This happened in the aftermath of Columbine, it happens after many school shootings.

But in Parkland, the students kept giving interviews and took to social media to air their frustrations over gun violence, and teens like Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg became household names.

The first protests began before students even had a chance to return to class. On Feb. 20, hundreds of students from neighboring West Boca High spontaneously walked out of school during a moment of silence and hiked more than 10 miles to the Parkland campus. Some wanted to show solidarity with their neighbors, others decried a lack of safety at school.

“Most of us got zeros on quizzes today,” sophomore Lauren Smith said. “I don’t think we should have to do that to make a change, but we do. And it’s important that we do.”

More widespread walkouts marked the one-month anniversary of the shooting across the United States — some with the support of their teachers, others under threat of suspension.

“I am worried about it, but I would rather fight for what’s right than a little suspension,” Sayreville County, N.J., student Sydney Calder said.

Students gathered outside the White House while others gathered around 17 empty chairs or laid down on their school’s football fields. In mid-March, activists laid about 7,000 pairs of shoes on the grass outside the U.S. Capitol to represent all the children who have died by gun violence since the Sandy Hook shooting.

On March 10, there was a small march of about 100 Douglas students who walked from a community park in Coral Springs to the school campus. The event, calling for stricter gun-control laws, was a prelude to a much bigger, nationwide march on March 24.

March for Our Lives protests were held in cities across the country, indeed the world. Some 500,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C., for the event, where Douglas students Gonzalez, Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Delaney Tarr and Samantha Fuentes spoke.

“Fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job,” Gonzalez told the crowd.

Perhaps the biggest march — in terms of distance — involved a 50-mile hike from Madison to Janesville, Wis., where House Speaker Paul Ryan lives. The Wisconsin high school students completed the the trek March 28, four days after it began. Ryan was out of the country at the time, but he issued a statement saying he “respects those expressing their views.”

Students were able to speak directly to politicians about a week after the attack, when President Donald Trump held a listening session at the White House and CNN hosted a town hall event with lawmakers, including Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson.

During the White House event, Trump promised stricter background checks and floated the idea of training and arming teachers with guns.

At the town hall event in Sunrise, Fla., students and parents met face to face with lawmakers to call for the banning of assault-style rifles like the AR-15 used in the Parkland shooting or raising the age limit for buying certain weapons. Nelson and Rubio said they didn’t support the idea of arming teachers.

Legislation

Some of that activism has paid off. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a $400 million of legislative reforms for school security, mental health and gun control. The legislation bans the use of bump stocks — devices that allow the rapid firing of certain firearms — increases the minimum rifle purchasing age from 18 and 21, and institutes a three-day waiting period on all firearm purchase.

A Democratic attempt to include an amendment banning all assault weapons was unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, school districts in Gainesville, Palm Beach County and Leon County, Fla., voted to ban or reaffirm bans on teachers carrying firearms in schools. In Putnam County, though, volunteer school personnel can receive 150 hours of firearm training.

Other states have enacted new laws or are in the process of voting on legislation since the Parkland shooting:

— The Chicago suburb of Deerfield, Ill., on Monday voted to ban the possession and manufacture of semiautomatic rifles with a fixed magazine and a capacity to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition; shotguns with revolving cylinders; and conversion kits from which assault weapons can be assembled, as well as specific models such as the AR-15, AK-47 and Uzi.

— Oregon was the first state to enact gun restrictions after the Parkland shooting, banning firearm ownership for people convicted of domestic violence, even if the victim isn’t a spouse, closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole.”

— The Illinois House and Senate each approved a bill raising the minimum age to own assault-style weapons, assault-style weapon attachments, .50-caliber rifles and large-capacity magazines on March 14. The House must vote again on the measure due to an amendment.

— In Rhode Island, Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order allowing law enforcement agencies to consider “all red flags, including recent threats of violence made in person, in videos and on social media and take all available legal steps to remove firearms from any person who poses a threat to themselves or others.”

— On April 11, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed into law three bills that contain gun-control measures — expanding background checks, banning bump stocks, limiting rifle magazines to 10 rounds and raising the age limit to buy firearms to 21. He said he also plans to sign two other bills, one a “red flag bill” like the one in Rhode Island, and the other a process to remove guns from people cited or arrested for domestic assault.

— Louisiana’s Senate voted on April 10 to kill a bill that would have raised the age limit for buying assault weapons to 21.

On the federal level, the Department of Justice has floated a plan to ban bump stocks and other implements that effectively turn firearms into “machine guns.” The directive was opened for public comment March 23, but no official rule has been put in place.

On March 14, the House passed school safety legislation, while not including any gun-control measures, seeks to prevent school shootings. The Students, Teachers and Officers — or STOP — School Violence Act would authorize grants to train students, teachers and law enforcement officers on how to recognize and report threats of gun violence, and improve security features like locks, lights and metal detectors. A companion bill has bipartisan support in the Senate.

On March 7, Rubio and Nelson proposed a bill that would incentivize states to enact gun violence restraining orders. It would allow family members or authorities to petition a court to prevent a person from having guns if they are deemed dangerous.

The fallout

Several U.S. companies have announced plans to put restrictions on gun sales or cut ties with the NRA.

Kroger, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart announced they would raise the age limit to buy a firearm to 21.

On April 10, Bank of America announced it would stop lending money to the manufacturers of “military-style firearms” sold to civilians.

Other companies severed their relationships with the NRA, including First National Bank of Omaha, which ended its NRA-branded credit card, and Enterprise Holdings, Hertz, Best Western and MetLife, which ended discount programs for NRA members.

One company, Delta Air Lines, faced a sizable consequence for disassociating from the NRA — it lost a $38 million tax break from the state of Georgia.

“Our decision was not made for economic gain and our values are not for sale,” Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian wrote in a memo to the company. “We are in the process of a review to end group discounts for any group of a politically divisive nature.”

Still, the NRA received an increase in donations in the days after the shooting, Federal Election Commission data indicated in late March.

In January, the month before the shooting, the NRA received $248,000 in individual contributions. In February, the month of the shooting, the NRA’s donations more than tripled to $779,000.

The state of New Jersey, meanwhile, sold its holdings of all pension investments in manufacturers of automatic and semi-automatic weapons for civilian use in late March.

“This is a wise investment strategy that also aligns with the goals of the [Environment, Social and Governance] Subcommittee by taking into account social factors as part of the investment decision-making process,” acting Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio said. “I commend the State Investment Council for this swift and decisive action.”

And in the 2018 midterm election, one state legislature candidate, Leslie Gibson dropped out of his race after insulting Gonzalez (as a “skinhead lesbian”) and Hogg (as a “bald-faced liar”). Gibson was running unopposed for the Maine House, but after his comments a fellow Republican and a Democrat decided to challenge him.

In late March, several companies, including Nutrish, TripAdvisor and Wayfair, pulled advertising from Laura Ingraham’s Fox News program after she mocked Hogg for being rejected by colleges to which he applied.

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