News & Politics

5 Unforgettable Moments from CNN's Town Hall on Gun Control

The NRA may have finally met its match in the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

Photo Credit: YouTube Screengrab

A CNN town hall Wednesday night offered a national platform for grief, anger and the growing call for gun reform following the Feb. 14 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Since the mass shooting, which left 17 dead, students have organized and participated in school walkouts, pushed for gun reform and created the March For Our Lives. During the town hall, students, teachers and parents questioned their elected representatives (including Sen. Marco Rubio, who was given an A+ rating from the NRA in 2016), the local sheriff and an NRA spokesperson about gun control, school safety and the influence of the gun lobby.

Here are a few notable moments from the nearly two-hour broadcast.

1. Student asks Rubio if he will continue to take money from the NRA.

Sen. Marco Rubio looked incredibly uncomfortable during the town hall, and seemed especially frustrated while speaking with MSD student Cameron Kasky. Though the exchange between Rubio and Kasky was frequently interrupted by the crowd, Kasky managed to boldly ask Rubio, “Can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA in the future?”

Though Rubio tried to side-step the question, Kasky continued his line of questioning, at one point saying, “in the name of 17 people, you cannot ask the NRA to keep their money out of your campaign?” 

2. Parent of victim calls out Trump's and Rubio’s responses.

Fred Guttenberg, whose 18-year-old daughter Jaime died in the shooting, first addressed Rubio by telling him, “Your comments this week, and those of our president, have been pathetically weak.”

Rubio blinked and glanced at the ground, as those in the crowd stood in applause.

Guttenberg said to Rubio, “Look at me and tell me guns were the factor in the hunting of our kids in this school this week. And look at me and tell me you accept it, and you will work with us to do something about guns.”

Rubio spoke about ending bump stocks and improving background checks, but was ultimately booed for his dismissive comments about banning assault weapons.

Following the town hall, Rubio continued to maintain his position about assault weapons, tweeting:

Rubio’s tweet goes against what national polling data indicates about public opinion.

3. History teacher asks NRA spokesperson to define Second Amendment term.

When Diane Wolk Rogers was given the mic, she first honored one of her students who was killed during the shooting, Carmen Schentrup. Then she squared off with the NRA’s Dana Loesch, asking her, in the way she'd ask a student, to define a term.

She asked Loesch, “What is your definition of a ‘well-regulated militia,' as stated in the Second Amendment?” and added, “And using supporting detail, explain to me how an 18-year-old with a military rifle is well-regulated. And the world—our country, our nation—is gonna grade your answer.”

Loesch responded by not answering the question, but rather saying, "George Mason was one of the founders. And he said 'the militia is the whole of the people.' It's every man and every woman."

4. Sheriff Scott Israel pushes back against NRA spokesperson Loesch.

Though Israel and Loesch appeared at the same time to continue answering questions, they also argued back and forth between themselves.

Emma Gonzalez, one of the most-high profile student activists from MSD, asked Loesch a question about gun capabilities and bump stocks. Loesch’s response was primarily about the shooter and mental illness. After Loesch’s response, Israel countered:

5. Rubio questions large-capacity magazines.

Student Chris Grady, who enlisted in the Army, asked Rubio about limiting large-capacity magazines. 

In one of his only clear answers of the night, Rubio stated, “I'm glad you asked that question because I traditionally have not supported looking at magazine clip size, and after this and some of the details I learned about it, I'm reconsidering that position.”

Rubio went on to explain changing his mind on this issue, saying a different size magazine “wouldn't have prevented the attack but it made it less lethal.”

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Emily C. Bell is a news writer at AlterNet.