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'Road To Change' Runs Through Pensacola Monday

Bob Barrett

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will take their “Road To Change” Tour to Pensacola Monday. The students will be at the University of West Florida for the final stop on their month long bus tour of the state.

David Hogg was a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School the day the shooting took place. He says he has been as active in this movement and engaged with the media and social media to honor his sister, who lost four of her closest friends the day of the shooting. "I felt a sense of responsibility for my sister and to speak up for those that couldn't at that point, to make sure that this stayed in the news. And made sure that we were able to make out voices heard and hold that media spotlight for people that needed to speak up when they were able to."

Hoag and other student activists will be at the Auditorium at the UWF Commons for a town hall and voter registration drive beginning at 6pm Monday. He says it’s all part of trying to keep those 14 killings at their school in Parkland, Florida, in the front of people’ minds. "I wanted to make sure that nobody would forget about this, and I think we were able to do that for a pretty long period of time. And generically, what's happened again and again is there's a big 'Oh my God, this is terrible, thoughts and prayers, this should never happen'. Politicians, they act like they care, they're kind of like 'crisis actors' in that sense where they act like they care for a period of about three weeks, and then do nothing afterward. Like it or not, tragedies are good for approval ratings. And that's why these people have to act like they care for a short period of time. Then the media goes away. then something else happens and they have to go respond to that."

"What I like is that fact that people sent us to high school so that we could learn stuff, and are amazed that we paid attention" said Emma González, one of the most vocal and visible students in the March for our Lives movement. She gave a speech at a memorial service in Broward County a few days after the shooting, and again at the massive March for our Lives event in Washington D.C. She says speaking out is what she thought was expected of educated young people. "We were being shoved into college from (junior and senior) year to college (age) years. (They tell us) 'you're supposed to write your essays, you're supposed to have all of the techniques and everything ready to go so that when you go to college, you are an adult, you're fully fledged, you're ready to go'. And now they're like 'You're incredible! You should be the president!' No! I just tell the truth!"

A month after  the massacre, the Florida legislature passed and Governor Rick Scott signed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, a law which among other things raises the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21, extend a three-day waiting period for handgun purchases to include long guns, bans bump stocks and creates a so-called guardian program enabling school employees and many teachers to carry handguns if they go through law enforcement training and their school districts agree to participate.

At the law signing ceremony, Scott mentioned the student's efforts. "To the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, you made your voices heard. You didn't let up and you fought until there was change. You helped change our state. You made a difference. You should be proud." The NRA has sued the state saying the age restriction violates the second and 14th amendments.

While Monday’s event at UWF is the final stop on the student's Florida tour, they will continue on into Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana through the month of August.