Rally calling for ban on assault-style rifles to be held in Tallahassee

PARKLAND/TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Reuters) - Student and parent activists from the Florida high school where 17 teens and staff members were slain last week in a shooting rampage will hold a rally on Wednesday at the state capital, calling for a ban on assault-style rifles.

Last week's massacre, the second-deadliest shooting at a public school in U.S. history, has inflamed a national debate about gun rights and prompted young people from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and across the United States to demand action for stricter firearms controls.

"We're here to make sure this never happens again," Diego Pfeiffer, a senior at Stoneman, told a crowd that included hundreds of students from a Tallahassee high school on Tuesday after arriving at the capital.

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Parkland high school stage protest in state capital
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Parkland high school stage protest in state capital
Cameron Kasky, 17 and Jaclyn Corin, 17, make announcments from a car rooftop before fellow Marjory Stoneman Douglas students board buses to Tallahassee, Fla. to speak with Florida legislators about gun control on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. (Susan Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School get ready to board a bus for a trip to Tallahassee, Fla. on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 to talk with lawmakers about the recent rampage at their school and what needs to be done to make sure it doesn't happen again. (Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School get ready to board a bus for a trip to Tallahassee, Fla. on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 to talk with lawmakers about the recent rampage at their school and what needs to be done to make sure it doesn't happen again. (Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School get ready to board a bus for a trip to Tallahassee, Fla. on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 to talk with lawmakers about the recent rampage at their school and what needs to be done to make sure it doesn't happen again. (Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School get ready to board a bus for a trip to Tallahassee, Fla. to talk with lawmakers about the recent rampage at their school and what needs to be done to make sure it doesn't happen again. (Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
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Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student expelled from Stoneman Douglas High for disciplinary problems, was arrested and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. Authorities say he was armed with a semiautomatic AR-15 assault-style rifle that he legally purchased from a licensed gun dealer last year, when he was 18.

The Republican-controlled Florida House of Representatives rebuffed a bid to bring up a bill to block sales of assault-style rifles in the state.

Florida's legislature has taken up at least two bills during its current session intended to provide broader access to guns. But signaling a possible shift, state Senator Bill Galvan, the chamber's next president, called for a bill to raise the legal age limit for purchasing assault rifles from 18 to 21, the same as it is for handguns. The legislature's current session ends on March 9, leaving little time for a vote.

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Therapy dogs offer help after the Florida shooting
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Therapy dogs offer help after the Florida shooting
PARKLAND, FL. - February 15: One day after the deadly shooting at Marjorie Stonemason Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead and 14 injured, people gather for a memorial at Parkridge Church, on February 15, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. A group of children gather around a therapy dog at the vigil. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 16: Two women hug while surrounded by comfort dogs at a memorial site to honor victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, at Pine Trail Park on February 16, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Police arrested 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz for killing 17 people at the high school. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Jacob Comfort Dog visiting with Matt, a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Please continue to pray for this community and if you are moved, help with travel expenses for the LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs by visiting the link in our profile. #k9comfortdogs #marjorystonemandouglas #stonemandouglas #florida #travel #traveling #travelgram #dogs #goldenretriever #dogsofinstagram #dogstagram #puppy #puppies #instapic #instagram
This is Jacob, he’s a “comfort dog” whose been to Las Vegas, Orlando and now Parkland to comfort victims of mass sh… https://t.co/a4pRIkffmm
Emergency Appeal: LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs Deploy to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School - Parkland, Florida in Response to Mass Shooting - If you are moved to help with travel expenses, please visit the link in our profile. #parkland #marjorystonemandouglas #florida #dogs #dogsofinstagram #dogstagram #travel #traveling #travelgram #goldenretriever #animals #love #comfort
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Humane Society of Broward County Animal Assisted Therapy dogs arrive at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Sunday, February 25, 2018, for an open house as parents and students returned to the school for the first time since 17 people were killed in a mass shooting at the school in Parkland on February 14, 2018. (David Santiago/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
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Calls for national student walkouts and marches in the coming months were gaining steam on social media. That included the "March for Our Lives" on March 24 in Washington, D.C., spearheaded by some Parkland students.

The youth-led protest movement that erupted within hours of the shooting attracted prominent celebrity supporters on Tuesday when film star George Clooney and his wife Amal, a human rights lawyer, said they would donate $500,000 to help fund a gun control march in Washington planned for March 24.

Hollywood director Steven Spielberg and media mogul Oprah Winfrey later joined in, contributing $500,000 each toward the march.

A Washington Postal News opinion poll released on Tuesday showed 77 percent of Americans believe the Republican-dominated U.S. Congress is doing too little to prevent mass shootings, with 62 percent saying President Donald Trump, also a Republican, has not done enough on that front.

Trump said on Tuesday he had signed a memorandum directing the attorney general to draw up regulations banning devices that turn firearms into machine guns, like the bump stock used in October's mass shooting in Las Vegas.

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Teens protest gun violence at the White House
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Teens protest gun violence at the White House
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 19: Demonstrators lie on the ground a 'lie-in' demonstration supporting gun control reform near the White House on February 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. According to a statement from the White House, 'the President is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system.', in the wake of last weeks shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 19: Washington, D.C., area students and supporters protest against gun violence outside of the White House on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018, after 17 people were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last week. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 19: Washington, D.C., area students and supporters protest against gun violence outside of the White House on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018, after 17 people were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last week. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 19: A counter-demonstrator holds signs during a 'lie-in' demonstration supporting gun control reform near the White House on February 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. According to a statement from the White House, 'the President is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system.', in the wake of last weeks shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 19: Washington, D.C., area students and supporters protest against gun violence with a lie-in outside of the White House on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018, after 17 people were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last week. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 19: Demonstrators chant during a 'lie-in' demonstration supporting gun control reform near the White House on February 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. According to a statement from the White House, 'the President is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system.', in the wake of last weeks shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 19: Demonstrators lie on the ground during a 'lie-in' demonstration supporting gun control reform near the White House on February 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. According to a statement from the White House, 'the President is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system.', in the wake of last weeks shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 19: Demonstrators chant during a 'lie-in' demonstration supporting gun control reform near the White House on February 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. According to a statement from the White House, 'the President is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system.', in the wake of last weeks shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 19: Demonstrators lie on the ground during a 'lie-in' demonstration supporting gun control reform near the White House on February 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. According to a statement from the White House, 'the President is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system.', in the wake of last weeks shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 19: A demonstrator supporting gun control attempts to cover a sign held by a counter-protestor supporting gun rights during a 'lie-in' demonstration supporting gun control reform near the White House on February 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. According to a statement from the White House, 'the President is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system.', in the wake of last weeks shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 19: Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., speaks with Washington, D.C., area students and supporters as they hold a protest against gun violence with a lie-in outside of the White House on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018, after 17 people were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last week. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 19: Washington, D.C., area students and supporters protest against gun violence with a lie-in outside of the White House on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018, after 17 people were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last week. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 19: Washington, D.C., area students protest against gun violence outside of the White House on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018, after 17 people were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last week. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 19: Demonstrators supporting both gun control, at left, and gun rights, at right, hold signs during a 'lie-in' demonstration supporting gun control reform near the White House on February 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. According to a statement from the White House, 'the President is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system.', in the wake of last weeks shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 19: Demonstrators hold signs during a 'lie-in' demonstration supporting gun control reform near the White House on February 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. According to a statement from the White House, 'the President is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system.', in the wake of last weeks shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
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Students and parents elsewhere in Florida and in other states, including Tennessee and Minnesota, staged sympathy protests on Tuesday. Miami's WTVJ-TV showed video of about 1,000 teens and adults marching from a high school in Boca Raton to the site of the Parkland shooting, about 12 miles (20 km) to the west.

Gun violence on public school and college campuses has become so commonplace in the United States during the past several years that education officials regularly stage drills to train students and staff about what they should do in the event of a mass shooting on school grounds.

Gun ownership is protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and remains one of the nation's more divisive issues. A federal ban on assault weapons, in force for 10 years, expired in 2004.

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday said it given a rare posthumous letter of acceptance to Peter Wang, a student killed in the shooting. A Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet, Wang had aspired to attend the elite academy.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee)

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