School shooting survivors push for stricter gun laws at town hall meeting


Survivors of the Parkland school shooting came to Charleston Tuesday at the request of a Lowcountry students group to call for tougher gun laws.

The Lowcountry Students for Political Action organized a visit Tuesday afternoon with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a gunman killed 17 students and staff on Feb. 14. Their visit is part of their "Road to Change" bus tour.

The town hall at the Sottile Theater began a bit past its scheduled 7 p.m. start time and lasted nearly two hours, wrapping up shortly before 9 p.m.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg introduced the students, saying gun violence in South Carolina is higher than the national average in homicides, suicide and domestic violence.

"The effects of gun violence can be seen in homes, in churches and in schools," he said. "So here we are tonight for an amazing conversation that's so needed."

Tecklenburg said the students would receive keys to the city of Charleston. 

The students said their main goal with the tour is to register people to vote, educate people on important issues surrounding gun legislation, and encourage people to vote during elections.

Before the town hall, the Parkland students met with survivors of the June 17, 2015, Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting to share their experiences together. Road to Change organizer Matt Deitsch called the visit incredibly impactful.

"I should not be here today and I never expected to be here talking to you today. But evil has brought us together in order to stop that evil," Deitsch said.

A number of local politicians attended the event, including Democratic gubernatorial nominee Rep. James Smith. A request for comment from Gov. Henry McMaster was not immediately returned.

Students there tonight said the main reason for their tour and for their attendance in Charleston was to discuss gun legislation and encourage people to vote. 

"Millennials are now equal to baby boomers in terms of population," Lowcountry Students for Political Action member Jacob Gamble said. "So, we can flip a lot of districts if we just register to vote and actually turn out to vote. But we don't do that, so our goal is to change that."

The Road to Change tour will be in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Wednesday. The last scheduled tour date is August 12. 

The group held a news conference before the town hall.

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