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Florida Students Take Gun Control Message to Midwest

High school students participating in the "Road to Change" bus tour this month are encouraging voter registration by young people who want stricter gun laws. (my.lwv.org)
High school students participating in the "Road to Change" bus tour this month are encouraging voter registration by young people who want stricter gun laws. (my.lwv.org)
June 22, 2018

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Survivors of February's deadly school shooting in Florida took their message for stricter gun-control measures to a conservative corner of Iowa this week, on a bus tour through the Midwest.

During tour stops in Omaha and Sioux City, speakers shared how the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has changed their lives. Sixteen-year-old Alfonso Calderon says the "Road To Change" tour is advocating for gun safety, and he wants to understand why so many in rural America oppose that change.

"Americans are the ones making the laws in America,” says Calderon. “So, we decided that the best way to at least talk to people, or realize how they feel about this particular issue, was to have those one-to-one interactions."

A 2017 poll of Iowans found the majority don't believe increased controls on gun purchases will reduce mass shootings. The "Road to Change" tour continues through June 28, with stops in Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota next week, including one at the Standing Rock Reservation.

The Parkland school shooting claimed 17 lives, and helped spur "March for Our Lives" events worldwide on March 24th. Students on the tour are advocating for universal, comprehensive background checks; better database technology for tracking guns; and bans on high-capacity magazines and semi-automatic assault rifles.

Calderon, who will be a junior next year, says when his group talks to people who say they support the National Rifle Association and oppose stricter gun laws, they often have more in common than they realize.

"I mean we've talked to hundreds, almost thousands of NRA members,” says Calderon. “They aren't against background checks, they aren't against banning bump stocks, they aren't against digitizing the ATF – but they think they are simply because they've been told so."

The "Road to Change" bus tour started in Chicago and has 75 stops planned across the country, with a dual emphasis on registering young people to vote who will also push for gun-reform legislation.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - IA