On Monday, students from D.C. and surrounding areas held a demonstration at the White House in response to last week’s fatal school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
The event, where students lay on the ground as a way of representing the victims while calling for gun change laws, served as a precursor to two other scheduled events, the March 14 National School Walkout and March 24’s “March for Our Lives.”
Both events have the same theme: Enough is enough.
“Students and staff have the right to teach and learn in an environment free from the worry of being gunned down in their classrooms or on their way home from school,” Women’s March, which is setting up the school walkout, said in a news release. “Parents have the right to send their kids to school in the mornings and see them home alive at the end of the day.”
Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association and its close ties to lawmakers are again under fire after the Parkland shooting that left 17 dead.
The Feb. 14 shooting counts among the more than two dozen deadly school shootings that have happened in the United States since the shocking 1999 Columbine High School attack in which 18-year-old Eric Harris and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and one teacher before committing suicide in the school library.
It’s also the 10th deadly shooting at a school since Adam Lanza, 27, gunned down 20 first-grade children and six adults, school staff and faculty at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, before fatally shooting himself in 2012.
The Florida shooting, like others before, has shone the spotlight again on the NRA — the nonprofit gun advocacy group — and its contributions to lawmakers who have steadfastly refused to pass stricter gun laws.
The accused gunman in the Florida shooting, Nikolas Cruz, 19, somehow was able to legally obtain the military-style AR-15 assault rifle, despite the FBI being made aware of his disturbing behavior beforehand.
“We are grieving with Parkland, but we are not powerless,” former President Barack Obama tweeted. “Caring for our kids is our first job. And until we can honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep them safe from harm, including long overdue, common-sense gun safety laws that most Americans want, then we have to change.”
The former president often bumped heads with the powerful NRA and many believe that members of Congress have not passed stricter gun laws — for instance extended background checks before being allowed to purchase and the kinds of weapons that citizens should be permitted to buy — because the NRA is against such measures.
The NRA also has infamously lined the pockets of many and a report from OpenSecrets.org, which tracks contributions to lawmakers from such organizations like the NRA, recorded more than $17.3 million in campaign contributions Republicans alone took from the group.
In the 2016 election cycle, 19 federal election candidates in Florida races received a total of $834,165 from the NRA’s Political Victory Fund, the Political Action Committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who ran for both the presidency and the Senate, raked in the highest donation, receiving $9,900. Since the Parkland shooting, Rubio has doubled down on a claim that gun control would not have stopped the rampage.
An October New York Times report helped to shed some light on which elected officials receive big money from the NRA and, perhaps, is reticent to upset the group by introducing and passing stricter gun laws.
Arizona Sen. John McCain has received more than $7.7 million from the NRA, while fellow Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina has received more than $6.9 million. Missouri’s Roy Blunt received $4.5 million while Tom Tillis of North Carolina received $4.4 million.
Cory Gardner of Colorado has received $3.8 million; Rubio, $3.3 million; Joni Ernst of Iowa, $3.1 million; Rob Portman of Ohio, $3 million; Todd Young of Indiana, $2.89 million; and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, $2.86 million.
On the House side, French Hill has received nearly $1.1 million; Ken Buck of Colorado $800,000; David Young of Iowa $707,000; Mike Simpson of Idaho $385,000; and Greg Gianforte of Montana $344,600.
Rounding out the House’s top 10 are Alaska’s Don Young at $245,700; Lloyd Smucker of Pennsylvania with $221,700; Bruce Poliquin of Maine at $201,400; Pete Sessions of Texas with $158,100; and Barbara Comstock of Virginia with $137,200.
The Times reported that the highest-ranking Democrat in the House is Sanford Bishop, who ranks 41st in career donations from the NRA.
Among the top 100 House recipients, 95 are Republican. In the Senate, the top two Democrats are Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who rank 52nd and 53rd — behind every Republican except Dan Sullivan of Alaska.
Survivors and victims’ relatives have now directed their ire at state and national politicians, demanding action and venting frustration.
“President Trump, you say, ‘What can you do?’ You can stop the guns from getting into these children’s hands. Put metal detectors at every entrance to the schools,” said Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was killed at the school.
“What can you do? You can do a lot,” she said. “This is not fair to our families and our children [to] go to school and have to get killed.”
Bess Kalb, one of the writers for “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” offered up her own unique response.
Kalb took to Twitter, where she has 172,000 followers, and called out GOP lawmakers by tweeting the amounts in contributions they had received from the NRA.
“Have your representatives in Congress received donations from the NRA? It is too late to not politicize school shootings,” Kalb said. “We see you NRA-supported U.S. Representatives. And, we’re coming for you on Election Day.
“This is not a political issue. This is not a Constitutional debate,” she tweeted. “This is a pandemic that’s killing children. And it’s perpetrated by hypocrites who preach a doctrine of life but take money from a profit-driven gun lobby.”