“Angst,” he said. “ I just — there is so much emotion. I’m really really sad. It’s a very sad situation. Kids shouldn’t have to worry about that. It’s already tough enough being a teenager, without worrying about things like that.”
Did he plan to vote in favor of any bills that would do anything about that?
“You know, I think it’s too early to say.”
“It’s just too early to say.”
Inside, the students divided into groups of 10. Senator Lauren Book, a Democrat, had helped the students arrange meetings with lawmakers in both parties, and the groups were supposed to meet with some 70 elected officials.
Group Six crammed into the elevator with two parent chaperones. They met with Representative Patricia H. Williams, a Democrat, and Senator Debbie Mayfield, a Republican. Ms. Mayfield said that changes were needed, perhaps including raising the minimum age to buy powerful weapons, but she rebuffed criticism from a student, Daniel Bishop, 16, that such a change would not actually prevent deaths.
“We can’t stop crazies,” she told the group.
Afterward, Amanda De La Cruz, 16, looked distraught. “I want the ban on semiautomatic weapons,” she said. “I don’t care about the crazies.”
Then they headed to the House floor, where the powerful speaker of the House, Richard Corcoran, a Republican, had agreed to take their questions. Standing at the front of the chamber, he said he would support raising the minimum age to buy machine guns to 21.
And he promised to unveil what he said would be the most sweeping gun reform package in the nation’s history by Thursday or Friday.
Then a 16-year-old student named Alondra Gittelson raised her hand.
“I just want to know why such a destructive gun is accessible to the public — why that gun, the AR-15, that did so much damage, how is an individual in society able to acquire such a gun?”
Mr. Corcoran responded that he would not be in favor of banning weapons like the one used in the attack on the students.
“I think that if you look, it’s widely used in multiple different hunting scenarios,” he said. “I know people who go out and they’ll do boar hunts and they’ll use them.”
He continued: “You can disagree, but what I tell my kids — and being in elected office, you have to be very, very, very careful how much authority and power you bring to government. The greatest atrocities known to mankind have been committed by governments.”
“I understand your question,” he added. “And we’ll look at it, but I’ll just be honest with you: Me personally I don’t believe that’s the solution.”
Afterward, Ms. Gittelson observed that Mr. Corcoran had said exactly what her stepfather had predicted he would say.