May 24 (UPI) -- Looking for better control over gun violence, Democratic lawmakers are trying to attract strong advocates to help with the effort -- notably, students from a South Florida high school where 17 people were shot dead in February.
Several Democrats in Congress are recruiting students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., to work as summer interns on Capitol Hill.
Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley, who's leading the effort, told UPI he's happy to bring in MSD students to work on gun violence prevention.
"These young men and women have changed our national conversation on gun safety and gun violence prevention with their passion and courage," Crowley said. "That is exactly the type of individuals we need working on behalf of the American people.
"[I] look forward to working with these young men and women to advance common-sense gun safety legislation."
Crowley is joined by House Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., and Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Fla. and Mike Thompson, D-Calif., in the recruiting drive. They also encouraged Democratic colleagues Thursday to open their offices to Parkland students and other shooting survivors.
"This generation has grown up in the midst of an epidemic of gun violence and mass shootings, and they expect Congress to work to make them safe," Deutch said in a statement. "We owe these students so much more."
Some students from MSD and other schools traveled to Washington, D.C., just Wednesday to demand action.
Alfonso Calderon, who became a gun control activist after the Feb. 14 attack, recalled hiding in a closet with a friend during the gunfire.
"I told him something I never thought I'd have to tell my best friend: 'If the shooter does come in the closet, play dead to try and survive,'" he said. "That's the way to survive in a public high school."
Since the Parkland shooting, student activists have made a national push to end gun violence. Thousands gathered two months ago for March for Our Lives protests across the United States. Some were included in Time magazine's 2018 list of the 100 most influential people.
David Hogg, one of the better-known Parkland activists, helped galvanize national movement and is now calling for a "die in" at Publix supermarkets -- part of an an effort to call out businesses that support the National Rifle Association.
"We will have a die in the Friday before memorial day weekend," he tweeted Wednesday. "Just go an lie down."
"We must hold these businesses accountable just like our politicians," he added.
Calling it an "NRA Sell Out," Hogg criticized the Florida-based grocery chain for donating to gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam -- a pro-gun Republican who once labeled himself on social media as a "proud #NRASellout."
Publix answered in a tweet it has a significant interest in Florida and supports Putnam as a "hometown candidate."