Students, parents, and teachers claimed the spotlight at a televised CNN town hall in Sunrise, Fla., last night. The town hall, moderated by CNN analyst Jake Tapper, featured audience questions to Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, and National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch. Florida Gov. Rick Scott and President Donald Trump declined CNN’s invitation to participate.
The crowd, estimated at more than 7,000 people, was extremely vocal, frequently cheering the questions, booing responses — especially from Sen. Rubio and NRA spokesperson Loesch — and calling for more emphatic pledges to take action to stop gun violence.
The students of Stoneman Douglas High School, survivors of a shooting that killed 17 just one week ago, were especially pointed in their statements.
“Dana Loesch — I want you to know that we will support your two children in a way that you will not,” student Emma Gonzalez said.
After sustained pressure, GOP Senator Rubio said he supports legislation to prevent an 18-year-old from buying a rifle and that he is reconsidering his support for large-capacity magazines. He also said he does not support arming teachers in classrooms, a suggestion mentioned by President Trump earlier yesterday, but that he would support laws changing the system for background checks.
The CNN town hall was only one of dozens of rallies, protests, walkouts, interviews, listening sessions, and town halls around Florida and at the White House yesterday. The New York Times compiled 11 of the most compelling statements from yesterday’s national confrontation over guns.
Also Wednesday, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) announced that he is working with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on legislation to increase the minimum age to buy a rifle.
Just before the town hall was scheduled to begin last night, the NRA said that it opposes any new legislation that would put age restrictions on firearm purchases.
This morning, at CPAC’s annual gathering in Washington, D.C., NRA chief Wayne LaPierre accused “opportunists” of “wasting not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain.”