Student survivors from the horrific shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida that left 17 people dead held an emotional rally in which they announced they would be marching on Washington to demand restrictions on firearms. Joined by parents and politicians, the students protested Trump’s refusal to ban guns, and called on others to join them on March 24 for the March for Our Lives campaign.
18-year-old Emma Gonzalez, who hid on the floor of her school’s auditorium during the attack, delivered a passionate and moving speech attacking Trump. “This isn’t just a mental health issue”, she insisted. “He wouldn’t have harmed that many students with a knife.”
Expressing the frustration of her fellow students, Gonzalez said: “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 that 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,” she said. “It doesn’t matter because I already know! Thirty million dollars,” she yelled.
She then divided the $30 million by the number of gunshot victims from school attacks in 2018 alone, which came to $5800. “Is that how much these people are worth to you, Trump?” She asked. “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”. As the crowd cheered, Gonzalez finished by saying: “To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you”.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA spent US$11.4m supporting Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign, and US$19.7m opposing Hillary Clinton.
Trump has maintained that the tragic shooting was a result of mental health issues, refusing to comment on the involvement of a semi-automatic weapon. “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behaviour”, he wrote on Twitter. “Neighbours and classmates knew he was a big problem.” He added that he was “working with Congress on many fronts”.
Obama, a longtime supporter of anti-gun laws, weighed in on the shooting last week, saying: “Caring for our kids is our first job. And until we can honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep them safe from harm, including long overdue, common-sense gun safety laws that most Americans want, then we have to change.”