Florida School Shooting Survivors Rally at NRA Headquarters in Virginia

Counterprotesters carrying firearms also set up outside the National Rifle Association's Fairfax building

Survivors of a deadly shooting at a Florida high school joined a march in Virginia to protest what they consider efforts by the National Rifle Association to block gun-control laws and bans on assault rifles.

Protesters descended on the NRA building Saturday for the "National March on NRA" at the association's headquarters. Among the activists and organizers will be students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who survived the February shooting in which 17 students and staff members were killed.

Speakers highlighted the horrors of gun violence and urged listeners to vote out lawmakers who have resisted gun reform laws.

Bria Smith, a rising high school senior from Milwaukee, decried the prevalence illegal guns as a cause for violence and said police brutality should count as gun violence.

"I know what it's like to be afraid to leave your own front door for the threat of being struck by a stray bullet," Smith said. She "I want to remind every single person in this crowd: Our vote is our power and we will use it."

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed during the Parkland shooting, called for stricter gun laws and urged the crowd to vote out legislators supported by the NRA.

He directly addressed counterprotesters in the crowd.

"I happen to be a believer in the Second Amendment," Guttenberg said. "To those who are outside of this crowd walking around with AR-15s and other weapons, if you're a lawful gun owner, I hate the fact that you think you have to make a point to those of us who have lost loved ones."

Marissa Lang, a Washington Post reporter, tweeted a picture of at least one counterprotester holding a firearm.

Police kept protesters and counterprotesters, some of whom were armed, separated during the rally.

Scores of demonstrators turned up, holding sunflowers and signs with messages including "N.R.A. Russian Front" and "$1.18," referencing how much money gun reform groups say the NRA has donated to politicians per U.S. student.

A perimeter of police officers, emergency vehicles, security guards and fencing was erected around the organization's headquarters in Fairfax ahead of the protest.

A number of NRA supporters also set up near the protest site.

"It's not the weapon, it's the mindset," said counterprotester Brian Meehan. "Until we can come up with a solution to cure or stop somebody's mindset, you're never going to stop these mass killings."

Fairfax County police closed Waples Mill Road in the area due to the protest.

The Stoneman Douglas students have been on a bus tour aimed at registering voters and ending gun violence. Rallies were planned accross the country on Saturday, in cities including Charlottesville and New Orleans.

Saturday's demonstration comes on the same day as what would have been the 18th birthday of Joaquin Oliver, one of the Stoneman Douglass students killed

March organizers also are calling on the Internal Revenue Service to revoke the NRA's tax-exempt status and to stop access to downloadable blueprints for 3D-printed guns.

The rally comes after the NRA filed a lawsuit accusing New York State of undergoing a "blacklisting campaign" that has damaged their finances and ability to operate, NBC News reported

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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