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‘The adults have failed us. This is in our hands now’: Thousands stage school walkout over gun violence

Students and teachers walked out of class Wednesday morning by the tens of thousands to protest gun violence and remember the victims of last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Back in Washington, lawmakers pressed the FBI on why it didn't act on tips about the attacker prior to the shooting, and heard from those directly impacted by the violence. William Brangham reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    All over the United States, it's been a day for walking out of class and marching for tougher gun laws. The focus was on pressing Congress to act.

    William Brangham begins our coverage.

  • Protesters:

    Kids, not guns! Kids, not guns!

  • William Brangham:

    It was a scene that played out all across the country, from Washington, D.C., to Cobb County, Georgia, to Denver Colorado. Tens of thousands of students and teachers walked out of class this morning to protest gun violence and remember the victims of last month's school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

    In Washington, student activists, joined by Democratic lawmakers, gathered outside the Capitol to demand action.

  • Student:

    The adults have failed us. This is in our hands now. And if any elected official gets in our way, we will vote them out and replace them ourselves.


  • William Brangham:

    Earlier, in front of the White House, thousands held a 17-minute moment of silence, one minute for each of the 17 killed in the Parkland shooting.

    Elsewhere, in New York City, local students, joined by Governor Andrew Cuomo, led a so-called die-in. And others in cities far away as London, as seen in this time-lapse video, gathered in solidarity with today's protesters.

    While students from more than 2,000 schools were expected to take part in today's protests, others didn't. One student in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, told reporters from the "NewsHour"'s Student Reporting Labs why.

  • Student:

    I think that guns aren't the problem. I think people are the problem that get their hands on the guns. People with mental illnesses that are allowed to get these guns is the main problem, and not the gun itself.

  • William Brangham:

    Back in Parkland, Florida, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where the shooting took place, gathered on their football field. There, they held their own moment of silence and read biographies of each of the victims.

  • Student:

    We're not going to stop fighting. We're not going to shut up. It's been a month. We're still here.

  • William Brangham:

    School officials had asked them to stay on campus.

    Separately, in nearby Fort Lauderdale, the alleged gunman from Parkland was formally arraigned and pled not guilty to 34 charges of murder and attempted murder. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

    Back in Washington, at a Senate hearing, lawmakers pressed the FBI on why it didn't act on tips about the alleged attacker prior to the shooting.

    The agency's acting deputy director admitted more could have been done.

  • David Bowdich:

    We made mistakes here, no question about that. That said, even if had we had done everything right, I'm not sure if we could have stopped this act, but it sure would have been nice to try. It sure would have been nice to have our investigator to sit down in front of Mr. Cruz and actually have that discussion.

  • William Brangham:

    At the same hearing, senators heard from those directly impacted by last month's violence.

    Ryan Petty's 14-year-old daughter, Alaina, was one of the victims.

  • Ryan Petty:

    We don't have to all agree on guns, and we won't. But we can agree on the most fundamental things. We can agree that students and teachers should be safe. We can agree that schools should be secure. We can agree that law enforcement should be competent and must do its job.

  • William Brangham:

    In the House, members today did pass the Stop School Safety Act, which would provide $500 million for school safety measures. It doesn't, however, include any provisions when it comes to limiting guns.

    All this come as organizers prepare for the March for Our Lives, set for March 24, which could bring as many as half-a-million people to the nation's capital.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham in Washington.

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