Florida school massacre survivors push lawmakers for assault gun ban

Some of the hundreds of West Boca High School students arrive at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after they walked there in honor of the 17 students shot dead last week on Feb. 20, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 21 February 2018
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Florida school massacre survivors push lawmakers for assault gun ban

TALLAHASSEE, Florida/WASHINGTON: Dozens of teenaged survivors of the second deadliest public school shooting in US history marched on Florida’s capital on Wednesday to ask lawmakers to ban sales of assault rifles of the sort used to kill 17 students and educators last week.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, became the latest school targeted by a gunman using a semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle, heated up the nation’s long-running debate about gun rights and public safety.
Dressed in jeans and T-shirts and carrying signs with the slogan “#Neveragain,” survivors of the Feb. 14 mass shooting met with lawmakers in Tallahassee, to ask for stricter controls on gun sales.
Investigators said the assault was carried out by 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz, who purchased an AR-15 nearly a year ago. Police have charged Cruz, who had been kicked out of Douglas for disciplinary problems, with 17 counts of premeditated murder.
“We want to see some common sense gun laws so this will never happen again,” said Rachel Padnis, a 16-year-old sophomore from the school near Fort Lauderdale.
She and classmates said they were dismayed but undeterred by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature’s Tuesday rebuff of a bid to bring up a bill to block sales of assault rifles.
President Donald Trump, a strong supporter of gun rights, was due to meet later Wednesday with parents, students and teachers who have been victims of gun violence, including those affected by the Valentine’s Day shooting in Florida.
The White House meeting comes a day after Trump said his administration would take steps to ban bump stocks, an accessory that enables a rifle to shoot hundreds of rounds a minute. A spokeswoman said the administration was open to the idea of setting national age limits on sales of assault rifles.
Florida state Sen. Bill Galvan, slated to be the upper chamber’s next president, has called for a bill to raise the legal age for purchasing assault rifles from 18 to 21, the same as it is for handguns.
At the Florida capital in Tallahassee, dozens of students packed into a meeting room and peppered Senate President Joe Negron, a Republican, with questions about why individuals should have continued access to assault rifles.
Negron declined to say whether he would support any specific gun control measures, saying, “That’s an issue we’re going to look at as we work to develop legislation.”
Trump talks
US President Donald Trump, a strong supporter of gun rights, was scheduled to host a “listening session” with high school students and teachers at the White House on Wednesday.
Trump’s support for any tightening of gun laws would mark a change for a Republican who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association gun lobby during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The NRA opposes an outright ban on bump stocks but has said it would be open to restrictions on the devices.
Under pressure after Parkland, the deadliest-ever shooting at a US high school, Trump on Tuesday directed the Justice Department to quickly complete a proposed rule that would treat “bump stocks” as machine guns, which could effectively outlaw them in the US.
Last October, a retired real estate investor and high-stakes gambler used multiple assault rifles equipped with bump stocks to kill 58 people at a Las Vegas outdoor concert, the deadliest attack by a single gunman in US history. Bump stocks have not played a prominent role in other recent US mass shootings.
Later this week, Trump will meet with local and state officials, and plans to talk with governors about the issue.
Trump generally favors a Senate bill on background checks, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday.
Calls for national student walk-outs and marches in the coming months have gained steam on social media, including the “March for Our Lives” on March 24 in Washington, spearheaded by Douglas students.
Scattered school walkouts in support of the Florida students were planned around the US on Wednesday, according to officials and local media.
The NRA has agreed to participate in a televised town hall on guns to be broadcast by CNN later today, the news network said. NRA officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Gun violence on public school and college campuses has become so commonplace in the US in the last several years that administrators regularly stage drills to train students and staff in the event of a mass shooting.


At least eight dead in surge of white-water creek in Italy

Updated 10 min 51 sec ago
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At least eight dead in surge of white-water creek in Italy

  • Eight people lost their lives after a mountain stream suddenly flooded in Italy’s Calabria region
  • The eight dead were part of a group of around 15 people walking along Raganello stream in Pollino national park

ROME: At least eight people were killed in southern Italy on Monday when the level of a raging white-water creek in a deep mountain gorge swelled suddenly after heavy rainfall, officials said.
The national civil protection department said 18 people were rescued and six of those were injured in the flash rush of water in the Calabria region.
It was not clear how many people were missing because not all had entered the gorge with official guides and registered.
In some places the Raganello creek, part of the Pollino National Park, is at the bottom of a narrow, one-kilometer-deep gorge in the mountain. Rescue teams used ropes to descend the sides of the mountain to reach the site.
Images on national television showed helmeted mountain rescue squads rushing from the nearest town, Civita, to reach the gorge, a popular tourist attraction in summer.
The most seriously injured were taken by helicopter to hospitals in the provincial capital, Cosenza.
All of the victims were believed to be Italian tourists.