Emma Gonzales was in the auditorium of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, when she heard shots reverberating through her school. At first, she thought they were just having a drill, but then the first responders arrived and told everyone to vacate the premises.
Gonzales survived the massacre, but she has the sound of gunshots burned into her memory. In the days that have followed, the teen has thought about how the shooting was not entirely unexpected, as she along with many others had suspected this might happen — and there is a certain set of people to blame for that.
"They say, 'You don't think about it until it happens' — I was always thinking about it," she said in a powerful speech during a gun control rally at Ft. Lauderdale Courthouse. "And now that it's happened, there's nothing that could have possibly made me angrier and more ready to do something.”
Gonzales’ rage has been fueled by the callous response of lawmakers who claim the incident could not been prevented at all. The young woman is also enraged at the way pro-gun politicians, who have received massive funding from the National Rifle Association (NRA), have been trying to shift the focus away from gun control and onto mental illness.
She also called out President Donald Trump for speaking about addressing mental illness but completely ignoring the real issue: guns.
So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2018
Gonzales read the president’s tweet out loud. She countered the claim, informing the POTUS the shooter had actually been reported to the FBI since he was in middle school. She also reminded the commander-in-chief that by focusing on his mental well-being, he was trying to deflect attention from a more important issue.
“Those talking about how we should have not ostracized him, you didn’t know this kid! OK?” she shouted. “We did. We know that they are claiming that there are mental health issues, and I am not a psychologist, but we need to pay attention to the fact that this is not just a mental health issue… He wouldn’t have harmed that many students with a knife.”
The teen also criticized Trump’s decision in February 2017 to repeal a gun law that would have blocked gun sales to people with certain mental illnesses and called into focus his association with the NRA, an influential gun lobby.
“If the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy, and how it should never have happened, and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association,” Gonzalez said.
“To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you!” she added, as the audience joined in and chanted “shame on you!”
She also had a message for Trump: Don’t blame the victims for the massacre, blame those who oppose gun control.
“Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this: We call BS!” Gonzalez concluded amid applause.
The rally at Ft. Lauderdale drew around 1,000 people to commemorate the dead and speak about gun control.
Following her impassioned speech, Gonzalez was hailed as a hero on social media, with celebrities and normal folks alike praising her for her courage and bravery.
Stop everything you're doing and watch this and share it. Oh my God. Emma Gonzalez, THANK YOU. We are with you!!! https://t.co/dqTWcenQf3— billy eichner (@billyeichner) February 17, 2018
Emma Gonzalez you are a hero. https://t.co/0ZEWSsMQBC— Phillipa Soo (@Phillipasoo) February 17, 2018
Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Emma Gonzalez is a hero. She's calling out Trump and the NRA by name at this rally. Getting people to reply to NRA talking points with "We call BS!" Most are. A few visibly uncomfortable adults on stage. But not many.— Joan Walsh (@joanwalsh) February 17, 2018
so amazed at the highschool students who have been bravely outspoken in past couple of days. using their raw anger & grief in profound ways to bring overdue change for our country. they deserve our utmost respect/attention/& help. (????EMMA, you are incredible) https://t.co/xzy6iunByj— hayley from Paramore (@yelyahwilliams) February 18, 2018
YESSSSS EMMA GONZALEZ!!!!!!! Thank you for your voice, and for your bravery and honesty while using it??? https://t.co/7y7Su02uSz— Zendaya (@Zendaya) February 17, 2018
Less Tomi Lahren— Tony Posnanski (@tonyposnanski) February 18, 2018
More Emma Gonzalez
Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Jonathan Drake