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ST. LOUIS – A student who survived the St. Louis High School shooting spoke with Fox 2 after her emotional outcry for change stunned a congressional town hall meeting, Thursday night. It brought the crowd to its feet for a standing ovation.  

“It should not have taken my school to get destroyed for you all to listen.  It should not have taken my school for you all to understand that this is a problem,” Veronica Russell said, fighting tears.   

Russell, a senior at Central Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) High School where the shooting occurred, was a panelist at the town hall meeting hosted by St. Louis Democrat Congresswoman, Cori Bush, at St. Louis Community College, Florissant Valley.  She rose to speak without warning.

“I took my chance while I still had the platform instead of waiting for the next incident to happen or the next child to get injured.  This something we need to act on now,” she later told Fox 2.  

More than 150 people packed the town hall, including the mother of 15 year old student, Alex Bell, who was killed along CVPA teacher, Jean Kuczka.  Bell’s mother did not speak and kept her head bowed most of the time.   

Democrat Congressman, Jamaal Bowman, traveled from his district in New York City to be there, too.   

Most of the focus was on mental health services and gun restrictions.   

St. Louis Police confirm the gunman, 19, who graduated from CVPA, had been committed for mental health treatment in the past.  Still, he was able to buy the AR-15 style rifle used in the shootings from a private seller earlier this month, after an FBI  background check blocked an attempted purchase from a licensed dealer.  St. Louis Police even responded to the gunman’s home this month to take the rifle and give it to a relative, at his mother’s request.  It’s unclear how the rifle ended up back in the gunman’s possession.   

“We need background checks on every single gun sale, every single gun transfer.  We need to enact red-flag laws.  We need to ban assault weapons,” Congresswoman Bush said. 

Earlier Wednesday, Missouri’s Republican Governor, Mike Parson, was at St. Louis Police Department Headquarters to visit the heroic St. Louis Police and St. Louis City Public Schools officers who rushed into the building to take out the shooter and prevent a massacre.   

“These guys did exactly what no one else wants to do and went into the facility in a hot situation and took out a shooter,” Gov. Parson said.  “I thanked them for their service.  I thanked them for doing that.  I thanked their families for standing behind them.  Some people would say social workers or go to a different avenue. What do y0u think would have happened if that would have occurred with a guy with 600 rounds in there …”  

“I thought we were going to get our act together after Columbine we didn’t, after Sandy Hook we didn’t, after Virginia Tech we didn’t … on and on and on,” Congressman Bowman said. 

He disputed claims that states with “red flag” laws would have seized the shooter’s weapon when Missouri did not. 

“That’s a separate issue in the State of Missouri that we look at.  I don’t think there’s any question people who have mental health issues, you can take their weapons,” he said.  

At the town hall, acceptance of the status quo was not an option.  

“I thought we were going to get our act together after Columbine we didn’t, after Sandy Hook we didn’t, after Virginia Tech we didn’t … on and on and on,” Congressman Bowman said. 

He and Congresswoman Bush said maybe that would change with St. Louis.