PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — The school shooting in Texas has a group of Pinellas County teenagers more motivated than ever to try and get gun laws changed.
We first met some of the founders of the non-profit “We the People” following the school shooting in Parkland. The teens, that attend various high schools across Pinellas County founded the organization in direct response to the Parkland shooting.
“Outraged my heart goes out to all those victims in Texas,” Emily Handsel said.
On Friday, Handsel said the deaths of students her age in Santa Fe, Texas was just another reminder of why they need to keep fighting for their safety.
“We are very active for a ban on assault rifles in general,” Handsel said. “We just can’t see the purpose why a civilian would need a weapon of war like that.”
Handsel said the group is starting a grassroots campaign to get people out to vote in November. Their mission, try and vote out pro-gun politicians.
“Get as many young high school aged kids, recently graduated high school aged kids out to the polls and to advocate for issues they feel passionate about,” Handsel said. “Know their representatives and know who they are voting for in November.”
Handsel thinks politicians have been out of school so long they “don’t realize how scared we actually are going to school these days. It’s hard to say, but I don’t know if some of the people, especially the older generations ever had to go to school and face this level of gun violence pervading our school system.”
As Handsel works to get politicians in office that will vote for a ban on assault rifles. Some of her peers don’t think guns are the problem.
“It’s more of a people problem then a gun problem,” Jayson Weiner said. Weiner just graduated from Seminole High School and is joining the military. Weiner said he doesn’t support a ban on semi-automatic rifles. But, he does support Handsel’s cause.
“I agree with them personally not in their viewpoint but that they are taking political action and standing up for what they believe in it’s a fantastic thing,” Weiner said.
Handsel says more and more students are registering to vote and joining their group. They plan to dedicate more time over the summer to raising awareness and prepare for the elections in November.
“The issue is guns in this country and it’s not going to stop,” Handsel said. “We see the shooting again today and it reinforces the fact that if we don’t do something about this — this problem is never going to go away and it’s only going to get worse."