The Slatest

Florida Shooting Survivor Emma Gonzalez to Trump: “We Call BS”

Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who survived Wednesday’s mass shooting, gave a blistering speech at an anti-gun rally on Saturday about the politicians complicit in the murder of her classmates. It was yet another reminder that the teenagers and children who grew up in the shadow of school shootings (and the 150,000 who survived one) are more practical—and less tolerant of empty rhetoric—than the adults who are supposed to protect them. Gonzalez had no use for crocodile tears from President Trump, who was in Florida on Friday to offer his condolences (and, reportedly, to drop by a Studio 54 theme party at Mar-a-Lago):

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. But hey, you want to know something? It doesn’t matter, because I already know: $30 million. … To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you!

Gonzalez’s grief and righteous fury electrified the crowd, which broke into chants of “Shame on you.” She was especially incensed at Trump’s attempts to attribute the shooting to mental illness, given that the president specifically acted to make it easier for mentally ill people to purchase guns:

In February of 2017, one year ago, President Trump repealed an Obama-era regulation that would have made it easier to block the sale of firearms to people with certain mental illnesses. … I don’t need to be a psychologist to know that repealing that regulation was a really dumb idea. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa was the sole sponsor of this bill to stop 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 that the FBI isn’t doing background checks on these mentally ill people.” Well, duh: You took that opportunity away last year! The people in government who we voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and are prepared to call BS.

Gonzalez then led the crowd in a spirited call and response, running through a pretty comprehensive list of lies and excuses from the gun lobby and their lackeys.

Companies trying to make caricatures of the teenagers nowadays, saying that all we are is self-involved and trend-obsessed, and hushing 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 ever been done to prevent this: We call BS!

They say that tougher gun 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 that no laws could have been able to prevent 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!

It’s easy for adults to use a speech like this as an excuse for complacency: Any version of “the kids will save us” that doesn’t end with “from the gun-loving death cult we tolerated and nurtured for decades and thus bear special responsibility for confronting,” is, well, BS. But it’s heartening to see that the old lies aren’t working.

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Matthew Dessem is Brow Beat’s nights and weekends editor and the author of a biography of screenwriter and director Clyde Bruckman.