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ACTION ALERT: Student-Shooting Survivors Give Voice to Their Outrage

February 19, 2018
Julie Turkewitz, Matt Stevens and Jason M. Bailey / The New York Times & Emma Gonzalez

Commentary: "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 NRA? . . . . I already know. $30 million. And divided by the number of gunshot victims in the US in the one and one-half months in 2018 alone, that comes out to being $5,800. Is that how much these people are worth to you, Trump?"


School-shooter Nikolas Cruz Filmed
Taking Practice Shots While Wearing
His "Make America Great Again" Cap

'This Is the Way I Have to Grieve'
Emma Gonzalez Leads a Student Outcry on Guns

Julie Turkewitz, Matt Stevens and Jason M. Bailey / The New York Times

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (February 18, 2018) -- They shouted into a microphone until their voices became hoarse. They waved handmade signs. They chanted.

And sometimes, in the middle of it all, they choked up.

At the federal courthouse here on Saturday, students -- including many of the very people who had to endure the trauma of a shooting on campus -- continued to speak out about guns. Since Wednesday, when a gunman killed 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., their youthful voices have resonated where those of longtime politicians have largely fallen flat.

And on Saturday, another young woman's words captivated the nation.

Speaking publicly at the rally, Emma Gonzalez, a senior, pledged that her school would be the site of the nation's last mass shooting. How could she know? Because, she said, she and her peers would take it upon themselves to "change the law." [Text of Emma Gonzalez' speech included below -- EAW.]

"The people in the government who are voted into power are lying to us," she said. "And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and are prepared to call B.S."

"They say that tougher gun laws do not decrease gun violence -- we call B.S.!" she continued as a chorus of supporters echoed her. "They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun -- we call B.S.! They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars -- we call B.S.! They say that no laws could have been able to prevent the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred -- we call B.S.! That us kids don't know what we're talking about, that we're too young to understand how the government works -- we call B.S.!"

She wiped her eyes aggressively. Then, she urged the people in the crowd to register to vote -- and to give their elected officials "a piece of your mind."

Just hours later, one video of the speech had been viewed more than 100,000 times.

In a telephone interview early Sunday, Ms. Gonzalez, 18, said she was surprised by the enthusiastic reaction to her speech.

"I just got off the phone with Demi Lovato," she said. "That's not normally something that ever should have happened."

Ms. Gonzalez said she was encouraged to speak out, in part, by other supportive people in her community, especially those who she said do not yet feel comfortable talking publicly.

"This is my whole world now," she said. "I cannot allow myself to stop talking about this."

A person Ms. Gonzalez met at a party was killed in the shooting, she said; another person she has known for "an incredibly long time" is still in the hospital.

"Everybody needs to understand how we feel and what we went through, because if they don't, they're not going to be able to understand why we're fighting for what we're fighting for," Ms. Gonzalez said.

She noted that some have criticized students for raising their voices, suggesting that they take the time to grieve instead.

"This is the way I have to grieve," Ms. Gonzalez said. "I have to make sure that everybody knows that this isn't something that is allowed to happen."

Here are the voices of some other students who, like Ms. Gonzalez, have spoken out in recent days.

David Hogg, 17: 'We're children. You guys are the adults'

While David Hogg, 17, and dozens of his Stoneman Douglas classmates were hiding in the dark in the school chef's office, he interviewed them on camera about their views on gun policy. Mr. Hogg, a senior and the student news director, later told The New York Times that lawmakers must make schools safer.

"We need to do something," he said. "We need to get out there and be politically active. Congress needs to get over their political bias with each other and work toward saving children's lives."

Referring to politicians, Mr. Hogg told CNN: "We're children. You guys are the adults."

Carly Novell, 17: 'This IS about guns'

Hours after the mass shooting, surviving students turned to social media to discuss gun control. They addressed the prevalence of such attacks and why someone with a mental illness can buy a gun.

"Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings," Carly Novell, a 17-year-old senior who is an editor for the school's quarterly magazine, wrote on Twitter. "This IS about guns."

In a video interview with The Times, Ms. Novell said she was trying to use her anger fruitfully.

"People always talk about gun control and how things need to change, but nothing ever does," she said. "And that is so frustrating."

Tyra Hemans, 19: 'I want to talk with' Trump

The public outcry from some Stoneman Douglas students was vastly different from the response of survivors of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. Those students two decades ago did not turn to activism as they grieved.

In contrast, Tyra Hemans, a senior at Stoneman Douglas, brought a poster featuring the word "ENOUGH" to a funeral for one of her classmates on Friday. She said she also wanted to deliver a message to President Trump.

"I want our politicians to stop thinking about money and start thinking about all these lives we had lost," she said. "I want to talk with him about changing these laws."

Daniela Palacios, 16: 'Change is going to come of this'

Among those who attended Saturday's rally was Daniela Palacios, 16, a sophomore at another Broward County high school, Cypress Bay.

This was her first protest, she said, and she stood with her mother, a tiny gold cross on a chain around her neck.

Returning to school after the shooting at Stoneman Douglas had been difficult, she explained, and she said she was there to call for a ban on firearms like the semiautomatic AR-15 rifle used by the gunman.

"Wherever you bump into someone, there is the fear that they're the next shooter," she said, "and every bell is a gunshot."

"I feel like some change is going to come of this," she went on, her voice barely audible amid the roar of the crowd. "I feel hopeful."

Ellie Branson, 16: 'Can you include the names of the victims?'

When the protest ended, a group of teenagers stayed behind, chanting and hugging -- and chanting again.

"It could have been us," one sign read. "My friend died for what?" said another.

"No more guns! No more guns! No more guns!" they yelled.

Among those leading the group was Ellie Branson, 16, a junior from South Broward High School. She wore a yellow and white T-shirt, her cheeks wet with tears.

When the protest finally ended, she texted a reporter.

"Can you include the names of the victims?" she asked. "Their names are more important than mine."

Julie Turkewitz reported from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Matt Stevens and Jason M. Bailey from New York. Jack Begg contributed research.

Emma Gonzalez to Lawmakers and Gun Advocates: 'We Call BS'
Here's what she said at a rally Saturday

(CNN) - Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, addressed a gun control rally on Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, days after a gunman entered her school in nearby Parkland and killed 17 people.

Below is a full transcript of her speech:

We haven't already had a moment of silence in the House of Representatives, so I would like to have another one. Thank you.

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. Since the time of the Founding Fathers and since they added the Second Amendment to the Constitution, our guns have developed at a rate that leaves me dizzy. The guns have changed but our laws have not.

We certainly do not understand why it should be harder to make plans with friends on weekends than to buy an automatic or semi-automatic weapon. In Florida, to buy a gun you do not need a permit, you do not need a gun license, and once you buy it you do not need to register it. You do not need a permit to carry a concealed rifle or shotgun. You can buy as many guns as you want at one time.

I read something very powerful to me today. It was from the point of view of a teacher. And I quote: When adults tell me I have the right to own a gun, all I can hear is my right to own a gun outweighs your student's right to live. All I hear is mine, mine, mine, mine.

Instead of worrying about our AP Gov chapter 16 test, we have to be studying our notes to make sure that our arguments based on politics and political history are watertight. The students at this school have been having debates on guns for what feels like our entire lives. AP Gov had about three debates this year. Some discussions on the subject even occurred during the shooting while students were hiding in the closets. The people involved right now, those who were there, those posting, those tweeting, those doing interviews and talking to people, are being listened to for what feels like the very first time on this topic that has come up over 1,000 times in the past four years alone.

I found out today there's a website shootingtracker.com. Nothing in the title suggests that it is exclusively tracking the USA's shootings and yet does it need to address that? Because Australia had one mass shooting in 1999 in Port Arthur (and after the) massacre introduced gun safety, and it hasn't had one since. Japan has never had a mass shooting. Canada has had three and the UK had one and they both introduced gun control and yet here we are, with websites dedicated to reporting these tragedies so that they can be formulated into statistics for your convenience.

I watched an interview this morning and noticed that one of the questions was, do you think your children will have to go through other school shooter drills? And our response is that our neighbors will not have to go through other school shooter drills. When we've had our say with the government -- and maybe the adults have gotten used to saying 'it is what it is,' but if us students have learned anything, it's that if you don't study, you will fail. And in this case if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead, so it's time to start doing something.

We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. Not because we're going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America, but because, just as David said, we are going to be the last mass shooting. Just like Tinker v. Des Moines, we are going to change the law. That's going to be Marjory Stoneman Douglas in that textbook and it's going to be due to the tireless effort of the school board, the faculty members, the family members and most of all the students. The students who are dead, the students still in the hospital, the student now suffering PTSD, the students who had panic attacks during the vigil because the helicopters would not leave us alone, hovering over the school for 24 hours a day.

There is one tweet I would like to call attention to. So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities again and again. We did, time and time again. Since he was in middle school, it was no surprise to anyone who knew him to hear that he was the shooter. Those talking about how we should have not ostracized him, you didn't know this kid. OK, we did. We know that they are claiming mental health issues, and I am not a psychologist, but we need to pay attention to the fact that this was not just a mental health issue. He would not have harmed that many students with a knife.

And how about we stop blaming the victims for something that was the student's fault, the fault of the people who let him buy the guns in the first place, those at the gun shows, the people who encouraged him to buy accessories for his guns to make them fully automatic, the people who didn't take them away from him when they knew he expressed homicidal tendencies, and I am not talking about the FBI. I'm talking about the people he lived with. I'm talking about the neighbors who saw him outside holding guns.

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.

You want to know something? It doesn't matter, because I already know. Thirty million dollars. And divided by the number of gunshot victims in the United States in the one and one-half months in 2018 alone, that comes out to being $5,800. Is that how much these people are worth to you, Trump?

If you don't do anything to prevent this from continuing to occur, that number of gunshot victims will go up and the number that they are worth will go down. And we will be worthless to you.

To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you.

(Crowd chants, "shame on you.")

If your money was as threatened as us, would your first thought be, how is this going to reflect on my campaign? Which should I choose? Or would you choose us, and if you answered us, will you act like it for once?

You know what would be a good way to act like it? I have an example of how to not act like it. In February of 2017, one year ago, President Trump repealed an Obama-era regulation that would have made it easier to block the sale of firearms to people with certain mental illnesses.

From the interactions that I had with the shooter before the shooting and from the information that I currently know about him, I don't really know if he was mentally ill. I wrote this before I heard what Delaney said. Delaney said he was diagnosed. I don't need a psychologist and I don't need to be a psychologist to know that repealing that regulation was a really dumb idea.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa was the sole sponsor on this bill that stops the FBI from performing background checks on people adjudicated to be mentally ill and now he's stating for the record, 'Well, it's a shame the FBI isn't doing background checks on these mentally ill people.' Well, duh. You took that opportunity away last year.

The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and our parents to call BS. Companies trying to make caricatures of the teenagers these days, saying that all we are self-involved and trend-obsessed and they hush us into submission when our message doesn't reach the ears of the nation, we are prepared to call BS.

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. They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS.

They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS.

They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS.

That us kids don't know what we're talking about, that we're too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.

If you agree, register to vote. Contact your local congresspeople. Give them a piece of your mind.

(Crowd chants) Throw them out.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.




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