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Florida Student Calls For Stricter Gun Laws, Writes Op-Ed

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Like many students at Douglas High last week, 15-year-old Christine Yared heard a fire alarm and started outside.

CHRISTINE YARED: Then I hear a lot of loud noises and my teacher yelling at us to get back in the class. The first thing I do is I dart into her closet.

INSKEEP: Twenty-eight students crowded into that closet. Police later brought them out safely, and they learned some of their friends were dead. The story doesn't end there. Christine Yared wrote an article for The New York Times headlined, "Don't Let My Classmates' Deaths Be In Vain."

The story of this shooting is a little different than some others that we could mention. It's what you, the students, have done in the last several days.

YARED: Yes.

INSKEEP: Your fellow student, Emma Gonzalez, gave a speech at a rally...

YARED: Yes.

INSKEEP: ...Calling for gun control. You've written for The New York Times. People are doing other things. What's on your minds?

YARED: We just want to make sure that no one else has to go through what we did. After what we've been through - losing friends, losing teachers, losing classmates, siblings - we want to make sure this happens to no one else because we've seen it happen time and time again. We don't want to be known as the school who had a school shooting. We want to be known as the school who had a school shooting and then made a change and did something about it.

INSKEEP: What is it that you want?

YARED: We want to have stricter gun laws. So my main issue is that someone who is 19, who cannot legally drink, was able to purchase a weapon of mass destruction. That doesn't make sense, and it's - it's crazy. I think also another big thing is stricter and tougher background checks. News has been coming out. He was expelled from the school. He has been reported to the FBI. He's posted odd things on Instagram, YouTube comments. Like, he showed the signs of having the potential for danger, and still, he was able to easily acquire a gun.

INSKEEP: Did you have an opinion about gun laws before this incident?

YARED: I did. I have always been politically active. I want to be a lawyer. I want to be on the Supreme Court one day. And I have always thought we need to have stricter gun laws because the way it is going in our country right now, with so many people being shot, so many school shootings - it's happening over and over again. And that's not OK, so we need to do something about it. But now, after this has happened, I am much more passionate about it. And I'm doing so much more to make sure that we have stricter laws.

INSKEEP: I guess you know there's a divide in the country and, more particularly, in Congress...

YARED: Yes.

INSKEEP: ...And a lot of resistance to stricter gun laws from folks who are concerned about the Second Amendment.

YARED: A lot of people right now, they're making the situation even more divisive. They're causing an even bigger divide. I - what I want to say is we need to come together - no matter your beliefs, no matter your political party. And we need to admit that children are dying, and if we don't come together and do something about this, it's not going to stop happening. More children are going to die. So we need to get over our divide and get over our fighting to come together and work towards something.

INSKEEP: Do you have time for just one more question?

YARED: Yes.

INSKEEP: This is a time of funerals - isn't it? - for your community.

YARED: Yes, it is.

INSKEEP: What's it like to be there now?

YARED: I think everyone has just become closer together. We've realized how easy it is to lose people you love. And so we realize we need to watch over each other and take care of each other. And we need to come together to make sure that these people are remembered for who they were - for the amazing people that they were and that their deaths won't be in vain and to make sure that something happens.

INSKEEP: Well, Christine Yared, thanks very much for taking the time.

YARED: Thank you.

INSKEEP: She's a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.