Former Rep. Jack Kingston is facing backlash after he suggested Tuesday that “left-wing groups” are coaching school shooting survivors to protest for stricter gun control.

“I think it’s a horrible tragedy, and I am heartbroken that young people have gone through this, and I hope that it never happens again,” the Republican, now a commentator for CNN, told network host Alisyn Camerota. “But I also know that their sorrow can very easily be hijacked by left-wing groups who have an agenda.”

“Do we really think 17-year-olds on their own are going to plan a nationwide rally?” Mr. Kingston asked. “I would say to you very plainly that organized groups that are out there like George Soros are always ready to take up the charge, and it’s kind of like instant rally, instant protest and those groups are ready to take it — take it to the streets.”

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Ms. Camerota pushed back, arguing that the survivors of last week’s mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, were “wildly motivated” by the tragedy to pressure Washington on gun control.

Mr. Kingston insisted that he’s not questioning the students’ sincerity, but suggesting that they “probably do not have the logistical ability to plan a nationwide rally … without it being hijacked by groups that already had the pre-existing anti-gun agenda.”

“Jack, that’s silly,” Ms. Camerota shot back. “They’re already doing it. They’re on buses going to the state legislature today. They’re 17 years old. They can figure this out.”

Mr. Kingston made a similar argument over the weekend on Twitter, saying left-wing activists are “using” the shooting survivors to push their anti-gun agenda. The tweet was only retweeted 160 times, but was met with 5,300 responses — many of them angry that the Republican would suggest students are incapable of mobilizing on their own.

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O really? “Students” are planning a nationwide rally? Not left wing gun control activists using 17yr kids in the wake of a horrible tragedy? #Soros #Resistance #Antifa #DNC https://t.co/AmqH1ajMTo — Jack Kingston (@JackKingston) February 19, 2018

Roughly 100 students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where police said 19-year-old gunman Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people on Wednesday, are busing 400 miles to Florida’s capital Tuesday to urge lawmakers to consider a sweeping package of gun-control laws. Mr. Cruz was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and is being held without bond.

Brandon Abzug, a senior student at Stoneman Douglas High, said Mr. Kingston should apologize for his comments.

“I think it’s very despicable that he would even have the audacity to say that,” the teen said. “Young people all across this country and over the world should feel that they have the power to make things right. Especially in the wake of a tragedy, we really show who we truly are. So to say that just because we’re young we can’t make a difference is not right, and he should apologize for that.”

Florida school shooting survivor’s dad responds to Jack Kingston suggesting kids are being coached with left-wing talking points in the wake of massacre: “Not a chance. These students are motivated. These students are intelligent. The only motivation they have is making change.” pic.twitter.com/ys4fopLPMY— New Day (@NewDay) February 20, 2018

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