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‘We do have a right to go to school and not fear for our lives,’ say Florida shooting survivors

Last week’s school shooting has given rise into a new campaign for action on guns. Two students from the Florida high school, Suzanna Barna and Lewis Mizen, discuss the aftermath of the shooting and the change they hope to drive in state and national gun laws.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    From Parkland to protest. Last week's school shooting in Florida is giving rise to a campaign for action on guns. The pressure ratcheted up again today.

    New calls for gun safety laws sounded from Florida to Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., as students protested gun violence.

    Outside the White House, they read the names of the 17 people killed in last week's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida.

  • Student:

    We're not the ones in office, but we are the ones in the classrooms.

  • Student:

    They say now is not the time. Marco Rubio, when is it the time?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Over the weekend, students who survived the shooting called for stricter gun laws and criminal background checks.

  • Emma Gonzalez:

    If the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I'm going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Emma Gonzalez:

    To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • President Donald Trump:

    You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The NRA contributed more than $30 million to support candidate Trump's bid. As president, Mr. Trump has largely opposed any gun restrictions.

    A White House statement today said the president is — quote — "supportive of efforts" to improve the federal background check system, and that he now supports a bipartisan bill on criminal background checks.

    The NRA also says it backs that bill introduced after 58 people died in the Las Vegas shooting massacre last October. It aims to ensure federal agencies enter information into databases.

    The president made no mention of gun laws Friday night as he visited with first-responders in Parkland. Instead, on Saturday, he cited the FBI's failure to investigate a January tip about the accused gunman, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz.

    He wrote on Twitter that the bureau was — quote — "spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign."

    Meanwhile, Cruz was back in court today for a preliminary hearing. He's been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. This morning, James and Kimberly Snead, who took Cruz into their home last November after his mother died, said they had no inkling of what he planned.

  • Kimberly Snead:

    Still can't process it, what he's done, because this wasn't the person that we knew. Not at all.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Sneads say Cruz kept the AR-15 he allegedly used locked in a gun safe in the house. But they say, unbeknownst to them, he had his own key.

    For more on the outcry that has grown out of last week's violence, we turn to two students from the Florida high school where the attack occurred, both of whom are now active in the calls for change.

    Suzanna Barna is a 17-year-old senior who writes for the school paper. Lewis Mizen is also 17 and a senior. He took shelter in a closet during the attack.

    Suzanna and Lewis, thank you both for talking with us.

    Suzanna, I'm going to turn to you first.

    How are you doing? How are you friends doing in the aftermath of this?

  • Suzanna Barna:

    The whole community is strong. We're united right now.

    It's so unfortunate, what we're going through right now. It's a work in progress. But we will get through it, and hopefully make a change in the end of all of this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lewis, we should point out you're a legal permanent resident of the United States. You have been here for four years. How are you doing? How are your friends doing?

  • Lewis Mizen:

    I'm OK. Again, it's completely different from anything I could have experienced in England.

    But the community has been phenomenal, not just the community here, the community in the world as a whole. Especially, my friends back in England have been sending all their love and support, and it's helpful, because, you know, we really do appreciate the support, because we're going through a lot right now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Suzanna, what would you like to see happen?

  • Suzanna Barna:

    Personally, national change, I would love.

    But, for now, our community is really focused on getting change in our own state, in Tallahassee. We would like to see — I mean, specifically, what we would like to see is just some sort of policy change.

    So, an example would be to change the age to purchase a gun to 21 for all weapons — for all types of guns, opposed to just handguns, which it is now. So, 21 would be the age for that.

    And then stricter background checks and just making sure that — making sure they're thorough enough, because the shooter for — the shooter who came to our school, he had a history of being expelled from school, and he had multiple problems and, like, violent outbreaks during his time as a student, which I think needs to be looked into, especially when someone is so young, where they're 18 and like early 20s, because they're still getting out of school.

    That's an important record to have and to look at for a background check. It says a lot about their behavior.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lewis, what about you? What would you add to that? What do you want to have happen?

  • Lewis Mizen:

    Well, I think, obviously, it's recently come out in the news one of President Trump's aides has said that he would be for a bipartisan agreement on having background checks.

    And I think that's phenomenal. I think it's a great step in the right direction. Obviously, gun culture is part of American culture, and that's OK, but there is a line between owning a gun to defend yourself and giving mentally unstable people access to the same sort of weapons that we send our soldiers to fight foreign wars with.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In other words, that weapon that the gunmen used at your school.

    Suzanna, our understanding of what President Trump is calling for is making it a little bit harder to get a gun, making sure that if someone has a criminal history, that that history goes into a federal database.

    I hear you saying that's a step in the right direction, but you want more than that.

  • Suzanna Barna:

    That is a step in the right direction. I mean, we do want — we do want more than that.

    But, I mean, as of now we're looking for change. We will take — we will take what we can get almost at this point. We really just want to see something happen. And from there, we plan to do more and more and keep this political activism going for the students and by the students to keep us involved.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lewis, do you think the students are committed to stick with this? Is this something is that going to last a long time, do you think?

  • Lewis Mizen:

    I think that this is our home. This is our high school, and, obviously, for everyone around the world who sees us on the news, they get to go home, they get to go to bed at the end of the day and wake up and move on with their lives and forget about it.

    We're going back to school in a week or so, and we have to walk the hallways where this has happened. And it's going to stay in our minds for the rest of our lives. And I think that I'm so, so lucky to have classmates who are willing to step up and kind of demand change, because they're right.

    We do have a right to be able to go to school and not fear for our lives. And teachers have a right to go to work and not have to worry that, in their job requirements, they're going to have to stand in front of kids and take bullets for them.

    There is something to be said for change. We need to make change.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Suzanna, some people have said what we need, what this country needs is for there to be people who are armed at every school. What do you think about that?

  • Suzanna Barna:

    Personally, that is not my political belief.

    I think that — I think that a good guy with a gun wouldn't be able to stop a bad guy with a gun just because of the — in — well, just from my experience in the situation we were in, I think that we do have an armed sheriff on our campus at all times, and — but the problem with that is that one good guy cannot stop someone with a higher — with a better gun and, like, with — just with a motive to kill, because it would just create more panic within the hallways, that the students who are running for their lives, they don't know if the bullets are coming from a good guy or a bad guy.

    And, I mean, I do — I mean, I don't personally agree with it, but like, right now, I'm just — I'm really focused on just getting gun safety in general and about, like, how he was able to get a gun, the shooter.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you have a thought about that, Lewis?

  • Lewis Mizen:

    I — I come from a country where the most dangerous thing that can happen at a school is culinary set something on fire. That's the worst-case scenario, really, for an English school.

    And it's on a complete different level here. And if we're thinking about sending elementary school kids into a place with fences and men armed with machine guns, it's not going to feel like a place where you can get educated. It's going to feel like a prison.

    And that's not very, you know, conducive to an educational environment. And I understand — and people do have a point when they say, you know, OK, one guy with an assault rifle can take down another guy with an assault rifle, but kids can get caught in that crossfire.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I know everyone watching is just heartbroken that you — the two of you and your classmates have to even think about some of these things.

    But it is what we are dealing with right now as a country. And I just want to thank both of you so much for talking with us.

    Suzanna Barna and Lewis Mizen, thank you both.

  • Lewis Mizen:

    Thank you.

  • Suzanna Barna:

    Thank you.

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