Emma Gonzalez survived Wednesday’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which left 17 dead. Like some of her fellow classmates, the high school senior has no plans to remain silent.
In an emotional speech on Saturday, Gonzalez addressed an anti-gun rally in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where hundreds of students, teachers and residents filled the terrace of the Broward County federal courthouse.
“If all our government and president can do is send ‘thoughts and prayers,’ then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see,” she said, holding notes from her AP Government class. “We certainly do not understand why it should be harder to make plans with friends on weekends than it is to buy an automatic or semi-automatic weapon.”
“The people in the government who are voted into power are lying to us,” Gonzalez said later, decrying those who have taken donations from the National Rifle Association. “And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and are prepared to call B.S.”
Gonzalez was one of half a dozen student speakers at the rally, many of whom noted that despite years of disciplinary issues, Nikolas Cruz, their former classmate who police say has admitted to carrying out the shooting, was able to purchase a gun.
“It was no surprise to anyone who knew him to hear that he was the shooter,” Gonzalez said, noting that students had begun reporting him in middle school. “This isn’t just a mental health issue. He wouldn’t have hurt that many students with a knife.”
Students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are being vocal about the need for gun control reform. Many appeared on multiple Sunday morning political shows to discuss their views and goals in the wake of the shooting and made clear they are going to target lawmakers up for election this year who they view as standing against their cause.
“We are losing our lives while the adults are playing around,” junior Cameron Kasky said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Kasky, 17, he has been updating the Facebook page for “Never Again MSD,” a group that will push for changes in gun laws. So far, it has garnered more than 61,000 followers. Members of the “Never Again” movement are refusing to go back to school. They’ll attend classes when gun legislation is passed, they say.
On Sunday, the group announced the “March for Our Lives” rallies, which will take place March 24 in major U.S. cities, including Washington.
The rallies are being planned with help from various groups, including organizers of the Women’s March, and have gained support from several prominent Democrats and gun-control groups, according to Alex Wind, one of the student organizers. They started a GoFundMe page to help pay for costs.
The students have expressed dissatisfaction in President Trump’s reaction to the tragedy.
David Hogg, a student, ripped Trump for suggesting in a tweet Saturday night that Democrats had let them down by failing to pass gun-control legislation when they held Congress.
“We’ve seen a government shutdown, we’ve seen tax reform, but nothing to save our children’s lives,’’ Hogg said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “Are you kidding me? You think now is the time to focus on the past and not the future to prevent the deaths of thousands of other children? You sicken me.”
Trump tweeted Saturday night that it was “not acceptable” that the FBI failed to stop the Parkland shooting — arguing the agency was too focused on probing Russian interference in the 2016 election and should get “back to basics.”
Carly Novell, a student who hid in a closet for two hours during the attack, tweeted an angry respond to the president: “You know what isn’t acceptable? Blaming everyone but the shooter and the lack of gun control in our country. You even blamed the students. We did report him; we tried. But how were we supposed to know what would happen? Your lack of sympathy proves how pitiful of a person you are.”
One person who spoke to Trump over the weekend said the president had closely watched the students’ television appearances and talked about the issue with guests at his Mar-a-Lago Club. “He knows he has to do something,’’ said another person who has spoken with Trump about the issue, who said the president seemed open to stricter gun control but had not decided what it would look like.
Michael Udine, a commissioner in Broward County, said he told the president Saturday afternoon that the students “are extremely motivated and well spoken and they are going to be demanding change in Washington and Tallahassee. . . . The president said, ‘Well, I would welcome that.’ ”
Udine said Trump was thoughtful on the call and repeatedly expressed his condolences.