With survivors of last week's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting watching from the gallery, the GOP-controlled Florida House on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly against a motion to consider legislation that would "ban assault rifles and large capacity magazines"—a move critics quickly denounced as "cowardly" and further evidence that Republican lawmakers are beholden to the interests of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
"Most people would probably be ashamed to basically kill a gun control bill with teenage survivors in the room with them."
—Luke Darby, GQ
"It was just so heartbreaking to see how many names were up there," Sheryl Acquaroli, a junior from Stoneman Douglas, told CNN following the 36-71 party-line vote. "It seemed almost heartless how they immediately pushed the button to say no."
According to Democratic State Rep. Kionne McGhee, the bill—which had been assigned to committees but not scheduled for a hearing—is now effectively dead, "unless the House vote[s] to remove it from the committees."
"Most people would probably be ashamed to basically kill a gun control bill with teenage survivors in the room with them," wrote GQ's Luke Darby. "But shame isn't enough of an incentive to get a legislator to flip on such a lucrative and politically useful issue. Unfortunately for them, these students are organized, angry, and soon to be voting age."
Profiles in cowardice, Tallahassee edition. https://t.co/Vp5FaTPkxH
— Errol Louis (@errollouis) February 21, 2018
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The Florida House's vote came as hundreds of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School arrived in Tallahassee after traveling hundreds of miles by bus to pressure lawmakers to pass stricter gun control measures, including a ban on assault rifles.
Ahead of Tuesday's vote, students and parent activists held a candlelight vigil remembering the victims of last week's shooting.
"We're fighting for the friends we lost. We're fighting for the future kids that we're going to have, and that's why we're marching and that's why we're here talking to our senators and our representatives," Sofie Whitney, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, told a crowd of her fellow students late Tuesday.
While Florida Republicans declined to even allow debate on an assault rifle ban, they did come together—on the same day—to officially declare pornography "a public health threat."
"Basically, what they have determined is that these are the Republican priorities in 2018," said Democratic Florida State Rep. Carlos Guillermo-Smith in an interview with The Independent. "Wasting our time with debate and legislation that declares porn as a health threat, meanwhile we can't even get a single debate, vote, or hearing on anything related to assault weapons. That's really sad."