Last year Emma Gonzalez became a prominent activist in the gun reform movement after 17 of her classmates were killed in the Parkland school shooting.
On Valentine’s day 2018 a student with a gun opened fire at Stoneman Douglas High School. Armed with an AR-15 style rifle the shooter killed 17 students and staff injuring 17 others. It was the deadliest school shooting in US history and that could have been the end of the story another tragic shooting in a long list but instead the story of Stoneman Douglas is one of strength, activism, and reform.
One day after the shooting students Cameron Kasky, Alex Wind, and Sofie Whitney had created the group Never Again to advocate for tighter gun regulations. Within a few days the group had 35,000 members on Facebook and other students had joined the movement including Emma Gonzalez who became one of the leading figures of the movement. The students worked quickly to move the public discourse away from the shooter and towards stronger gun regulations and the corruption in politics that prevents them. A few days after the shooting Emma spoke in front of Broward County Courthouse, for 11 minutes she described her grief and anger at politicians who have sold the lives of people for campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association (NRA). The powerful ‘We call BS’ speech went viral and a week later Emma and other Stoneman Douglas students confronted NRA spokesperson Dana Loesh and Florida politician Marco Rubio.
The students confronted them about corruption Emma chose to ask Loesh about whether it should be harder to obtain semi-automatic weapon and modifications which convert them to fully automatic. When the NRA spokesperson began to discuss issues with those who have mental illness Emma interjected her calling her out on the diversion within the answer “I think I’m gonna interrupt you real quick and remind you that the question is actually, do you believe it should be harder to obtain these semi-automatic weapons and modifications to make them fully automatic, such as bump stocks?”. All the students showed bravery and strong knowledge of gun issues debunking many of the NRA’s and Rubio’s talking points. The students worked tirelessly in the media and social media to spread their message and arranging the monumental event March For Our Lives.
On March 24th, 2018 a little over a month after their friends, classmates, and teachers had died the students hosted 200,000 people marching for gun reform in Washington DC. Millions more took part in the event across the US and the world in support. The entire day was filled with emotional speeches and moments from many students and young activists who had been impacted by gun violence. When Emma Gonzalez took her place at the podium everyone watching took a breath knowing that another incredible speech was coming.
She began by talking about her fallen classmates and then stood silent for 4 minutes 20 seconds as the crowd largely joined her with intermittent supportive cheers. The confidence and conviction of the 18-year-old to stand in silence in front of hundreds of thousands of people was inspiring. She stood in silence until her phone beeped alerting her that it had been 6 minutes 20 seconds the time it took for the shooter to kill 17 people and escape. She finished her time by stating ‘Fight for your lives before its someone else’s job’ mobilising a new generation of activists before figuratively dropping the mike and marching off stage.
In the time since the shooting 67 new gun safety laws have been signed in 26 states thanks in no small part to the incredible activism of the Parkland students and activists who support Never again and March for Our Lives. Their successes show that a small group of friends can change the world.