Heroic Florida teacher: "There's no point to somebody having an AR-15"

Ernie Rospierski, a history teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., is being hailed as a hero. He directed dozens of students to safety during last week's shooting, and was grazed by a bullet in a third-floor confrontation with the gunman.

Rospierski, or Mr. R, has been attending funerals and vigils for some of his students, while others demand action in response to the killings.

Appearing on "CBS This Morning" Monday, Rospierski described the moments when he realized the danger facing his students.

"Well, when I saw it was not a drill, the first thing I was yelling at my kids was to get to cover," he said. "I was in the middle of the hallway at the time, and I saw him point his gun at one of my former students. I saw him go down, and then I grabbed all my kids I could and pushed them into -- our doors have a little alcove in front of them – I grabbed my kids and pushed them in there because it was the only cover I could find.

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History teacher and gun owner Ernie Rospierski, who helped shepherd his students to safety, challenges anyone wanting to own an assault weapon. CBS News

"Four or five shots later, it stopped, and so that's when I looked out, poked my head around and saw he was either fidgeting with the gun or reloading or something. Told my kids to run, and then we left as fast as we could."

Seventeen people, including three teachers, were killed and another 14 injured in the attack. The alleged shooter, Nikolas Cruz, faces seventeen charges of pre-meditated murder. He is being held without bond.

Since the attack, students from Stoneman Douglas have been speaking out, and have announced a rally in Washington on March 24 advocating for stricter gun laws.

Co-host Gayle King said, "You must be very proud of your kids because many people were saying this shooting feels different. These students are speaking out and they are speaking out in ways we have not heard before. "

"The kids, the students at Stoneman Douglas, have been terrific," said Rospierski. "Not just the kids that you've had a chance to hear speak. But I personally witnessed one of my kids, his name is Peter Wang, holding the door pushing kids through the door while bullets are coming at him. I don't know many adults who could have done that, let alone a 14-year-old boy."

Wang, a JROTC student, was one of those killed.

"And then the response from our students who are still around, and still able to talk, they're taking that opportunity. They're empowered, and they're angry."

Co-host John Dickerson asked, "The president said he's going to have a listening tour in the wake of this. What would you want to tell him about your students and what you've experienced?"

"I'd want to say to the president that we have great kids. We have more great kids. We have 14 great kids who needed protection that we couldn't give them; I lost three kids in my class. I couldn't help them. I shouldn't have had to," he said.

"And it's one of those things that, as a lifelong gun owner and a hunter, I'm not saying we should stop the Second Amendment. I'm not saying we should take guns away from people. I say, there's no point to somebody having an AR-15. And if somebody wants to argue with me on that, that's cool. If you want an AR-15, we'll go to the range, I get to shoot at you, I get to graze you with a bullet, I get to catch you with fragments like I did, and then after that if you still want to buy said weapon, cool. Then I'm going to have you talk to a psychologist.

"Because that gun is not designed to do anything besides kill people. The round itself is unstable … That's not normal," he said. 

"And people need to realize -- especially the president because he has the most power in the free world, in the world -- we need to do something to save these kids and to protect our children. Not just my kids, but I have a 17-month-old son at home. I don't want to have to send him to school and have him face this stuff. I'm a 36-year-old man and I'm having trouble dealing with it. I can only imagine what these kids are dealing with."

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.