Ns News Online Desk: PARKLAND, Fla. — Thousands of angry students, parents, teachers and neighbors of a Florida high school where 17 people were killed demanded Saturday that immediate action be taken on gun-control legislation, insisting they would not relent until their demands were met. The rallies in Fort Lauderdale and St. Petersburg gave a political outlet to the growing feelings of rage and mourning sparked by the carnage. Authorities say a former student who had been expelled, had mental health issues and been reported to law enforcement, used a legally purchased semiautomatic rifle to kill students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
“Because of these gun laws, people that I know, people that I love, have died, and I will never be able to see them again,” Delaney Tarr, a student at the school, told the crowd swamping the steps and courtyard at the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, about 40 kilometers from Parkland. The crowd chanted: “Vote them out!” and held signs calling for action. Some read: “#Never Again,” “#Do something now” and “Don’t Let My Friends Die.”
Student Emma Gonzalez told the crowd politicians should stop taking donations from the National Rifle Association. “Shame on you,” she yelled, and the crowd repeated her.
“A lot of people are saying that these kids are activists, these kids need to be politicians,” she later told a reporter. “But a lot of us are just other students who figured there’s strength in numbers. And we want to be sure that we end up having our message sent across. And then we can get back to our normal everyday lives, you know.”
In St. Petersburg, on Florida’s Gulf Coast 400 kilometers northwest of Parkland, hundreds of people gathered Saturday night in a park, where they lit candles in memory of the victims and called for legislative action on the state and federal level to end gun violence. The rallies came as new details emerged about the suspect, Nikolas Cruz.
From a mosaic of public records, interviews with friends and family and online interactions, it appears Cruz was unstable and violent to himself and those around him — and that when notified about his threatening behavior, law enforcement did little to stop it. Cruz’s mother died in November and his father died years ago.
He reportedly left a suburban Palm Beach County mobile home where he had been staying after his mother’s death because his benefactor gave him an ultimatum: you or the gun. The Palm Beach Post reports Rocxanne Deschamps said, “He bought a gun and wanted to bring it into my house” in public comments that have since been removed from her Facebook page. Chad Bennett, a friend of Deschamps’, said Cruz “chose the gun and he left.” He then went to live with another family