The man labelled a coward by US President Donald Trump for failing to confront a school shooter has denied hiding from fire. Meanwhile, gun control activists in Florida have shown no sign of backing down.
About 1,000 protesters braved the pouring rain in Florida's capital of Tallahassee on Monday to continue the push for gun control reform started after a deadly shooting at a high school in the town of Parkland.
"Go away NRA" and "Hey lawmakers! Take the pledge. No NRA money," read some of the banners on the steps of the Florida Capitol. Protesters were wearing orange shirts bearing the slogan #gunreformnow.
The demonstrators were calling for a ban on assault rifles and condemned the call from the National Rifle Association (NRA) to give teachers guns to protect students.
Deputy: I'm not a coward
At the same time, a sheriff's deputy from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was having to defend himself from accusations of cowardice.
A lawyer for Scot Peterson, the only armed person at the school, said that rumors he had hidden from the gunfire and acted unprofessionally were untrue. Peterson was outside the building at the time of the attack, his lawyer said, because the gunshots sounded like they were coming from outside.
Earlier on Monday, Peterson had been criticized by US President Donald Trump as a "coward" for failing to intervene in the Valentine's Day shooting that killed 17 students.
"I really believe I'd run in there even if I didn't have a weapon," Trump told a meeting of state governors at the White House. "And I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too, you never know until you're tested."
Shooting sparks youth movement
The shooting at Stoneman Douglas has seen a huge wave of support for gun control reform, with teenage survivors of the carnage staging demonstrations, giving speeches and even calling out high-level politicians on live TV.
Trump vowed on Monday to press ahead with the modest reform proposals he supports, such as incentives for strengthening state and federal background checks and banning so-called "bump stocks," which allow semi-automatic weapons to fire at even faster rates.
The president said he had met with the NRA, calling them "great people."
According to a 2017 University of Nevada study comparing the US to 22 other wealthy industrialized nations, the US accounts for 82 percent of all total gun deaths despite having less half the population of the other nations combined.
es/aw (AP, AFP)