NFL’s Patriots fly Parkland students on team plane for DC gun control rally

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft lent the team’s official plane to shuttle students and families from Parkland, Florida, to Washington, D.C., this week for the “March for Our Lives” demonstration against gun violence, according to a report on Friday.

A team spokesman said the families of the deadly school shooting’s 17 victims, as well as some students who survived the attack, flew on the plane on Thursday, The Boston Globe reported. Kraft purportedly decided to lend the plane after he was contacted by former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, who founded a gun violence prevention group after Giffords was shot in the head by a gunman in 2011.

The plane will also fly the students and families back home after the march, the team spokesman added. The Patriots debuted two brand-new team planes, both Boeing 767s, during the 2017 NFL season.

Several Parkland students have become vocal advocates for stricter gun laws since the Feb. 14 shooting, which was one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. Nikolas Cruz, 19, faces 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder after opening fire at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The “March For Our Lives” rally aims to raise awareness about gun violence in U.S. schools. The event is scheduled for March 24. A petition calling on Congress to enact stricter gun control measures has received more than 275,000 signatures.

"On March 24, the kids and families of March For Our Lives will take to the streets of Washington DC to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools today,” the event’s website says.

Several businesses, including Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart, enacted tougher guidelines related to gun sales after the Parkland shooting. Kroger’s Fred Meyer stores recently opted to end firearm sales entirely, though the chain said its decision was tied to sagging sales.