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Harris plans to visit the Parkland school where 14 kids were killed in 2018

The memorial at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, 2023. Five years earlier, 14 students and 3 staff members were killed in a mass shooting at the school.
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The memorial at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, 2023. Five years earlier, 14 students and 3 staff members were killed in a mass shooting at the school.

Vice President Harris will visit Parkland, Fla., this month to walk the halls of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with family members of victims killed in a mass shooting there in 2018.

The massacrekilled 14 students and 3 adults, and wounded 17 others. It is one of the deadliest school shootings on record in the United States, and it sparked a groundswell of student activism calling for tougher gun laws.

On March 23, Harris — who oversees the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention — will visit the building with family members, who will show the vice president the path the shooter took, and where their loved ones were killed, a White House official told NPR exclusively.

The building is set to be demolished this summer

The building, one of several on campus, is set to be demolished this summer. It had been left largely untouched after the shooting – with bullet holes in the classroom doors and blood from the victims dried on the floor — to preserve evidence needed for the trial of the shooter.

Vice President Harris, seen here in a Feb. 16 file photo, oversees the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.
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Vice President Harris, seen here in a Feb. 16 file photo, oversees the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

The vice president wanted to be able to visit the school with families before it was torn down, the White House official said. Preparations for the demolition are already taking place and soon, access inside the building will be cut off.

Other government officials have also walled through the building, including Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in January, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers last year.

Harris has talked about gun violence prevention on college campuses

Harris has been making a case for tougher gun laws during events at the the White House and at stop on the road as the White House ramped up its work on gun violence prevention in recent months.

In September, President Biden tapped Harris to lead his new Office of Gun Violence Prevention, and she has since announced $285 million in funding for supporting mental healthcounselors in schools. In December, she convened state legislators at the White House to discuss what they could get done in their own states on gun safety.

Last year, she traveled around the country visiting college campuses to host town halls with students. The vice president's office has said that the issue of gun violence came up at every stop.

"Some people are trying to push us a false choice that's just, you either are in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone's guns away," Harris said at Florida International University in Miami last year. "That's not what we're saying."

Biden renewed his call for universal background grounds and a ban on assault weapons in his State of the Union address last week, and he raised the issue during campaign stops in Philadelphia and Atlanta over the weekend.

Gun control is a top issue for young voters, who Biden needs to win over before November

Taking on the issue of gun violence prevention and gun control is important for Biden's reelection efforts as well, particularly when it comes to young voters, voters of color and women — key groups Democrats need to turn out to vote in November.

In a recent poll from Tufts University, for example, 26% of young people said gun violence prevention was a top issue for them in the 2024 election. Among young Black voters, the number jumped to 36%.

X Gonzalez, a survivor of the Parkland shooting, speaks during a March for Our Lives rally on June 11, 2022 in Washington.
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X Gonzalez, a survivor of the Parkland shooting, speaks during a March for Our Lives rally on June 11, 2022 in Washington.

During the visit in Parkland, the vice president's office says she will be joined by groups like March for Our Lives, which was started by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the aftermath of the shooting and galvanized thousands of young people to march in Washington, demanding an end to gun violence.

But the group is still critical of the president, and its members are demanding he and Harris do more for young people in their reelection campaign, especially when it comes to climate change, and calling for a lasting ceasefire in the Middle East.

On Wednesday, before the president's State of the Union address, youth-led groups including March for Our Lives, the Sunrise Movement, which focuses on fighting climate change, and others called on Biden to do better.

"We watched as your government waived dozens of environmental laws to enable construction at the border wall, and now we watch in horror as innocent Palestinians are killed by bombs our government funded and provided," the groups wrote in a letter.

"We need you to prove to our generation that you are fighting for us every step of the way."

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.
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