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This girl with a buzz cut becomes America’s voice for gun control after Florida shooting

Emma Gonzalez speaks out against President Donald Trump and National Rifle Association after the mass killing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

world Updated: Feb 20, 2018 12:16 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Emma Gonzalez,Nikolas Cruz,Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, speaks to the media after calling for more gun control at a rally three days after the shooting at her school, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on February 17, 2018. (REUTERS)

Over the weekend, 18-year-old Emma Gonzalez emerged as the powerful voice of protests in the US against gun violence following the killing of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

The nearly 12-minute speech by Gonzalez at an anti-gun rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on February 17--during which she called out President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association for their failure to do enough to control gun-related violence--has been viewed by millions on YouTube and social media.

Gonzalez is among the youngsters and students, including survivors from the Florida school targeted by shooter Nikolas Cruz on February 15, who have decided to take matters in their own hands instead of waiting for adults to bring about a change.

As she repeatedly fought back tears and wiped her eyes, the teen with a buzz cut said in a voice choked with emotion: “Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving.

“But instead we are up here standing together because 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 added, “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.”

Trump and numerous Republican lawmakers have received donations of millions of dollars from the NRA, which is a key player in the campaign to prevent gun controls for Americans.

“To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you,” she said.

Referring to the lax gun laws in US states such as Florida, she said: “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.”

Cruz had used an AR-15 rifle in the shooting that replaced the Columbine High School massacre of 1999 as the deadliest high school shooting in the US.

“In this case, if you actively do nothing, people will continually end up dead. So it’s time to start doing something,” said Gonzalez, who is already being hailed as a hero and an icon in the movement to regulate access to deadly firearms.

Gonzales was in the school’s auditorium when the shooting occurred and initially assumed the institution was having a drill until officials told everyone to run. Two days after the shooting, she received a call from a teacher who had seen some TV interviews she had done.

The teacher told her a school board member wanted to speak to her and Gonzalez worried whether she had done something wrong, people.com reported.

Instead, the school board member invited her to speak at the anti-gun rally in Fort Lauderdale the following day. She decided to get some sleep before writing her speech. Gonzalez awoke at 6.30 am on February 17 – the day of the speech – and began writing. She continued working on the speech during the drive to Fort Lauderdale and edited it until the moment she walked on to the stage.

“I was getting incredible energy from the crowd,” Gonzalez was quoted as saying by people.com “I wanted people to feel what I was feeling.”

When Gonzalez who appeared on TV news shows on February 18 to discuss the response to gun violence and was asked about Trump’s criticism of the FBI for failing to act on tips related to Cruz, she described the president’s word as “disgraceful”.

She said Trump was trying to blame others. “The best thing for us to do is ignore him and to continue fighting our fight, the fight he refuses to acknowledge.”

First Published: Feb 20, 2018 12:15 IST