Students Scarred by Vegas Massacre Join Florida Rallying Cry - NBC 7 San Diego
Parkland School Tragedy

Parkland School Tragedy

Continuing coverage of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting

Students Scarred by Vegas Massacre Join Florida Rallying Cry

"The Parkland event allowed us to gain traction," one young woman said

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    Kaitlynn Willoughby was frustrated by how quickly gun control debates stalled after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

    Her friend, 20-year-old Quinton Robbins, was among the 58 people killed Oct. 1 at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. By the holidays, just weeks later, calls for change dissipated.

    "No one was listening to us yet," the 18-year-old high school senior said. "After Las Vegas, it was just another shooting."

    Willoughby is among those planning to march this weekend in rallies worldwide inspired by high school students in Parkland, Florida, who turned their own mass shooting last month into a rallying cry.

    Surveillance Video Shows Moments During Parkland School Shooting

    [NATL-MI] Surveillance Video Shows Moments During Parkland School Shooting

    Surveillance footage shows then-school resource deputy Scot Peterson standing outside of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School building where gunman Nikolas Cruz opened fire on students and faculty inside, then running out of view, not to be seen again on other school cameras.

    (Published Thursday, March 15, 2018)

    "The Parkland event allowed us to gain traction," Willoughby said. "Those students refused to be silent. They started in Florida and it spread nationwide."

    Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are anchoring a rally against gun violence Saturday in Washington, D.C., with hundreds of other marches set for cities across the globe. The protests follow widespread student walkouts last week, including at schools in Las Vegas, a city still scarred by its own massacre.

    Unlike the gambling destination, where many shooting victims were out-of-town tourists, Florida survivors spearheaded large state and national demonstrations and sweeping state gun legislation.

    After the Vegas shooting, vigils and "Vegas Strong" rallies filled street corners, but activism for gun legislation was less focused. Efforts in Congress to ban "bump stocks," devices used in the massacre that allow guns to fire like assault weapons, went nowhere. The Nevada Legislature was not in session.

    Now, students and survivors are joining protests launched by Florida youth and expect as many as 10,000 demonstrators Saturday in Las Vegas.

    Shae Turner, who would be marching if she weren't leaving town, escaped the outdoor concert through a hail of gunfire with her best friend. Some of her classmates at Faith Lutheran High School weren't so lucky: Two were wounded as bullets rained down from the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino across the street.

    Parkland Shooting Victim's Aunt Pleads For Gun Reform

    [NATL-MI]Parkland Shooting Victim's Aunt Pleads For Gun Reform at Walkout

    The aunt of a Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting victim attended a walkout Wednesday at the Parkland, Florida, high school where her niece was killed on Feb. 14. "I beg viewers to stand up with these kids and fight with us to get this gun legislation in this country changed," Gina Fontana told NBC 6's Ari Odzer. 

    (Published Wednesday, March 14, 2018)

    "People that I see every day, they've forgotten," the high school junior said. "They've moved on. We're completely different."

    Turner remembers grabbing her friend's hand, ducking behind palm trees during barrages of gunfire, and running to a casino to take shelter until their parents arrived.

    "Other kids are passionate about it and will post about it on social media, but they don't understand how it changes your life forever," Turner said of mass shooting survivors. "It's just sad to me, the demographic of teenagers and children having to live a life where they are affected by gun violence."

    Unanswered questions about the gunman's motive are certain to be on marchers' minds. The shooter was a 64-year-old real estate investor and high-stakes poker gambler who meticulously amassed assault-style weapons and fired for 10 minutes into a concert crowd of 22,000 people, authorities say. He then killed himself.

    Survivor and San Francisco resident Stephanie Wellek said she's overcoming some fears to return to Las Vegas for the first time since the shooting to speak at the event.

    "It's partly for healing. I expect tears," she said as she worried about being back in a crowd surrounded by tall buildings. Officials say dozens of police officers and city marshals will monitor the march and rally.

    "But this feels good to be expending energy toward a solution," Wellek said.

    Connor Leeming, a high school senior whose campus hosted teach-ins instead of walkouts last week, said some classmates told him their Second Amendment rights are under attack.

    "It's not good for democracy when people isolate themselves and are not open to listening to other people," said Leeming, who recalled attending the funeral of a classmate's mother who died in the shooting.

    Karl Catarata, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas, political science student who has spent weeks organizing student actions at UNLV, high schools and now City Hall, said he felt like he was part of a budding grass-roots movement.

    He said the Saturday rally is about enacting comprehensive gun reform at the state and national level and "making sure people who are a danger to themselves and other people don't have access to automatic weapons."

    "How audacious is it for kids who are young to be upset that their classmates are dying?" Catarata asked. "All these students are mobilizing. They're the next generation and the next voters."

    Students Take to Streets on Anniversary of Parkland Shooting

    [NATL] Students Take to Streets on Anniversary of Parkland Shooting

    Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School and other schools across the country walked out of class to honor the victims of the deadly shooting in Parkland, Florida, and to push for changes to gun laws.

    (Published Wednesday, March 14, 2018)