Firearms debate rages as Florida rally coincides with gun show

 

MIAMI (Reuters) - Student survivors of a mass shooting that killed 17 people at a Florida high school called for gun restrictions on Saturday during an angry and somber rally, but attendees at a nearby gun show said firearms could not be blamed for the massacre.

Wednesday's shooting in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Parkland fueled the long-running U.S. debate between supporters of tougher controls on firearms and advocates for gun rights, which are protected by the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment.

Both sides of the dispute were on display on Saturday.

Many at a rally in Fort Lauderdale that was organized to demand tougher gun laws rejected comments by U.S. President Donald Trump and others that mental illness was the main factor behind the slaughter at Margory Stoneman Douglas High School.

"We need to pay attention to the fact that this isn't just a mental health issue," Emma Gonzalez, an 18-year-old student at the school, told hundreds demonstrators gathered on the steps of a federal building. The shooter "wouldn't have harmed that many students with a knife!" she yelled, shedding tears as the crowd cheered her on.

Gonzalez criticized Trump for overturning a measure implemented by former President Barack Obama that required extra scrutiny of some gun buyers with a history of mental illness. She also condemned the National Rifle Association, which opposes laws that it says violate gun owners' rights.

RELATED: Victims of the shooting 

17 PHOTOS
Victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting
See Gallery
Victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting

Scott Beige - Geography Teacher

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Elizabeth James Watt​​​​​​​

Chris Hixon - athletic director

Photo Credit: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

15-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff

Photo Credit: Florida Youth Soccer Association

14-year-old Alex Schachter

Photo Credit : Getty 

14-year-old Cara Loughran

Photo Credit: Facebook

17-year-old Helena Ramsey

Photo Credit: Facebook

14-year-old Alaina Petty

Photo Credit: Facebook

14-year-old Gina Montalto

Photo Credit: Facebook

15-year-old Peter Wang
18-year-old Meadow Pollack (left)

Student Jaime Guttenberg

Photo Credit: Facebook 

Student Martin Duque

Photo Credit: Martin Duque/GoFundMe

17-year-old student Nick Dworet

Photo Credit: Instagram 

Football coach Aaron Feis.

Photo Credit: MSDfootball.com

16-year-old student Carmen Schentrup

Student Joaquin Oliver

Photo Credit: Facebook

Student Luke Hoyer

Photo Credit: Facebook 

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"Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have ever been done to prevent this, we call B.S." Gonzalez said.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student who was expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has been charged with 17 counts of murder. Police said he was armed with an AR-15-style rifle and had multiple magazines of ammunition.

Cruz legally purchased the murder weapon from a licensed dealer in Coral Springs, Florida, the Broward County sheriff said.

Representatives for the White House and the NRA did not immediately respond to requests for comment. On Friday, Trump visited a Florida hospital and met with people wounded in the shooting as well as first responders.

Ryan Deitsch, 18, was among those locked in a classroom closet as the shooter stalked the school's corridors.

"The least lawmakers can do is vote on something," Deitsch said in an interview at the rally, referring to tighter gun controls. "What's the worst that can happen?"

The rally coincided with a gun show attended by hundreds of people about 40 miles (64 km) away at the Dade County fairgrounds. Despite calls for the show to be canceled, there were more than $5 million worth of guns and accessories on display, organizers said, including dozens of assault-style rifles.

RELATED: Shootings over the years

25 PHOTOS
25 fatal school shootings since Columbine
See Gallery
25 fatal school shootings since Columbine

April 20, 1999 - Columbine High School 

Photo Credit: Reuters

Nov. 20, 1999 - Deming Middle School, New Mexico 

(photo by Joe Raedle)

 February 29, 2000 - Buell Elementary School, Michigan 

Photo Credit: Reuters 

May 26, 2000 - Lake Worth Middle School, Florida 

Photo Credit: Reuters 

March 5, 2001 - Santana High School, California 

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Mike Blake MB/RCS

April 25, 2003 - Red Lion Area Junior High School, Pennsylvania

Photo Credit: Reuters 

September 24, 2003 - Rocori High School, Minnesota 

Photo Credit: Getty 

March 21, 2005. Red Lake High School, Minnesota

REUTERS/John Gress 

November 8, 2005 - Campbell County Comprehensive High School, Tennessee 

Photo Credit: Getty 

 Aug. 24, 2006 - Essex Elementary School, Vermont

 Photo Credit: Getty 

September 29, 2006 - Weston High School, Wisconsin 

(Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

October 2, 2006 - West Nickel Mines School, Pennsylvania 

(Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

January 5, 2011 - Millard South High School, Nebraska 

Photo Credit: Getty

February 27, 2012 - Chardon High School, Ohio

REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk 

December 14, 2012 - Sandy Hook Elementary, Connecticut 

 (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

October 21, 2013 - Sparks Middle School, Nevada. 

(Photo by David Calvert/Getty Images)

December 13, 2013 -  Arapahoe High School, Colorado

REUTERS/Rick Wilking 

June 10, 2014  - Reynolds High School, Oregon

(Photo by Natalie Behring/Getty Images)

October 24, 2014 -  Marysville-Pilchuck High School, Washington

REUTERS/Jason 

February 12, 2016 - Independence High School, Arizona 

Photo Credit: Getty 

September 28, 2016 - Townville Elementary, South Carolina

(Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

April 10, 2017 - North Park Elementary School, California 

 (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

September 13, 2017 - Freeman High School, Washington

Photo Credit: Getty 

January 23, 2018 - Marshall County High School, Kentucky

REUTERS/Harrison McClary

February 14, 2018 - Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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Jorge Fernandez, a former police officer and show manager, said Florida Gun Shows, which runs more than 40 shows across the state, decided against canceling due to financial concerns.

Joe Arrington, 29, a former law enforcement officer, was there with his infant daughter in his arms and a rifle over his shoulder. He said more background checks are needed on gun buyers, but that more regulation would not have stopped the Parkland massacre.

"I don't believe that any law that they would have added would have deterred what happened," Arrington said. "I think a lot of agencies didn't do their job necessarily like they were supposed to."

The FBI has come under intense criticism after it said on Friday that it failed to act on a warning about Cruz that was called in to a tip line on Jan. 5. The caller provided information about Cruz's "desire to kill people ... as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting," the FBI said.

Adolfo David Ginarte, 30, a hotel conference service manager, was checking out some of the more than 140 vendors at the gun show. He called it "un-American" for anyone to call for the show to be canceled in the wake of the shooting.

"Facts don't care about your feelings," he said. "Things are going to happen. Life is going to go forward. What happens if I'm offended by a movie? Are they going to cancel the movie? This isn't the first time and unfortunately it's not going to be the last time."

Related: Reactions to Parkland's tragedy 

51 PHOTOS
Reaction to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida
See Gallery
Reaction to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida

**Click through the following slides to see how lawmakers and well-known figures responded to the shooting on February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.**

(John McCall/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavi… https://t.co/3mSYrtTng6
We are grieving with Parkland. But we are not powerless. Caring for our kids is our first job. And until we can hon… https://t.co/LWGSkzRapH
No words, no actions, no laws are enough until we end this epidemic of school shootings in our country. My heart is… https://t.co/tjXGNhDN4e
My heart is broken again — this time for the victims of the Parkland school shooting, and the families whose childr… https://t.co/cZcyDaUIUV
My heart is heavy over the school shooting in Florida. Keeping all affected in my thoughts & prayers.
April 16, 2007, was the worst day of my life—when 32 people were shot and killed at Virginia Tech. Nearly 11 years… https://t.co/c3cBLo8HKF
Imagine your child never coming home from school. Then imagine having to tell that story to every new person you me… https://t.co/hbl4tRBsig
Don't tell me tomorrow isn't the appropriate time to debate gun violence. If you're a political leader doing nothin… https://t.co/iLM5dP8YW7
I am at a loss for what more to say. I grieve with the families in Parkland today. I grieve with the families acros… https://t.co/PaYjuPSkw8
Heard the word “tragedy” 100 times already about the school shooting - not really, by the classical definition: tra… https://t.co/asfO6NFmkz
Praying for the innocent lives lost, their families and the Parkland, Florida community in the wake of today’s unspeakable tragedy.
Broward school shooting--There will be prayers from Blabbermouth Don, Pence the Grinch, and their rightwing cohorts… https://t.co/rfySOFaB6X
Another senseless tragedy at an American school. My heart is with the victims and their families. When will we wake… https://t.co/QFLOKCDwZU
Praying for everyone at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Just spoke with Broward Undersheriff to ensure they h… https://t.co/lXBLWVHVCS
Sending my love to #parkland. #guncontrol #policyandchange https://t.co/lGnYTytBfm
Just spoke with @POTUS about shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. My thoughts and prayers are with the… https://t.co/Lum03FQg79
The accounts from today's school shooting in Parkland, Florida strike fear into all Americans. Is it safe to send o… https://t.co/6gbokHm4j2
We owe it to our children and our teachers to keep them safe while at school. Prayers won't do this: action will. C… https://t.co/0KGNfJSour
Sen. Chris Murphy addresses Florida school shooting on Senate floor: "Let me just note once again for my colleagues… https://t.co/sZEKbUPvqY
Heartbroken over the news of another school shooting. This is the 18th in 45 days of 2018. Students & teachers shou… https://t.co/MLgvZc3eFq
Yeah, it’s pretty rough to talk about shootings right after they happen. I know if someone was burning down house… https://t.co/eFbx9wtHlJ
I’m horrified by the reports coming from Parkland, Florida. Please take a moment to pray for the victims and first… https://t.co/t0TqSWZZVM
Relieved that the shooter is in custody. Praying for the victims and their families during this harrowing experien… https://t.co/I4BQ1bGscQ
Please join me in praying for the students, faculty, and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, as well as… https://t.co/dlvULnKn6E
It’s so easy these days to just scroll by a story like this. But this is developing and we should pay attention. Th… https://t.co/RgxgC5ZEuj
Devastating news from Florida. As further details emerge, join me in praying for everyone at Marjory Stoneman Dougl… https://t.co/5jrawYUYSq
My heart deeply hurts for the children and their families in South Florida that are going through a living hell. T… https://t.co/AipSSV7rM0
Another school shooting. Sad. Prayers to the families #ParklandShooting
Just reading about the shooting at the High School in Parkland, Florida. Thoughts & prayers with all those affecte… https://t.co/OWtOUJgBhx
As we send our thoughts & prayers to the people of Parkland, Florida how about we, the people & govt of America, ac… https://t.co/rR8HFlnZeg
My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or an… https://t.co/RFJxgM1jhm
We have to do more to protect our children our teachers our families our people, no Matter what ! 🙏🇺🇸
We’ve been praying. It’s time to work. It’s time to change. Faith + works. Prayer + action. https://t.co/J5e2Y0DL8i
Prayers to everyone in Parkland Florida 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻
If people can blame drug dealers for the drug problem then we can blame the @NRA for the mass shooting problem.
Today is the day that inevitably comes when your prayers don't do anything to prevent it, but your vote might. https://t.co/1HBkioPDcA
These lawmakers took the most money $$ from the @NRA https://t.co/TzJtZ5lgMq
Praying for all impacted by the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward, especially th… https://t.co/Qe8PhyTev4
My heart goes out to the victims who were killed or injured, and their families, in the school shooting in Florida.
If people can blame drug dealers for the drug problem then we can blame the @NRA for the mass shooting problem.
Our prayers go out to the families and friends of victims in Florida.
My heart goes out to all those affected by the shooting in Florida. I am praying for these precious children and th… https://t.co/3oPyygSjaq
My heart breaks again today at news of the school shooting in Florida. It's long past time for action to stop the g… https://t.co/w0KCn7RYu7
Lots of people lamenting "nothing will change" today. That's what people said before the Montgomery boycott. Th… https://t.co/uflj5KzeBL
As we rise this morning let us pray for the victims and families of this horrific tragedy that has fallen on our co… https://t.co/GC2rrpU3Bs
Our community has suffered devastating tragedy. We lost sons, daughters, teachers, coaches, friends, neighbors, bro… https://t.co/gbaIaUQlKw
Prayers without accordant action are silent lies told to oneself, heard by no God, amounting to nothing. Action is… https://t.co/6nscffCxJ4
Like thousands in South Florida, we sent the boys to school in Broward County this morning... there are no words to… https://t.co/wsVhErOoHb
Just heard the tragic news about Florida. My heart breaks for the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.… https://t.co/0fHsqfWGky
Our hearts are shattered by the terrible news about Parkland… love you so so much Florida ❤️
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(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Leslie Adler)

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