Emma Gonzales: Student who survived Florida shooting hailed as hero for her impassioned speech at gun control rally

Maya Oppenheim

A student who survived the mass school shooting in Florida has been lauded for delivering an emotionally charged speech at a gun control rally.

A gunman opened fire at a school in the small city of Parkland, around 45 miles north of Miami, on Wednesday, killing 17 and leaving more than a dozen injured.

A suspect, named by police as Nikolas Cruz, was arrested in the aftermath. Aerial footage showed familiar scenes of frightened students spilling out of the school with their hands raised in the air.

Emma Gonzales, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was in the school’s auditorium and assumed they were having a drill until first responders told everyone to run.

Ms Gonzales, whose speech went viral and name trended on social media over the weekend, has been hailed as an icon and a leader in the struggle for greater gun control.

“This isn’t just a mental health issue. He wouldn’t have hurt that many students with a knife,” Ms Gonzalez said of the alleged assailant as she addressed crowds at a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday.

The impassioned student’s voice trembled with outrage as she challenged US President Donald Trump’s tweet drawing attention to the fact there were “so many signs” the alleged killer was “mentally disturbed”.

“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,” Ms Gonzalez said. “I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association”.

Mr Trump received millions of dollars for his 2016 presidential campaign from the National Rifle Association – a hugely powerful organisation which objects to any form of gun control.

Wiping away tears from her eyes at various moments during the speech, Ms Gonzales led the crowd in chants of “shame on you!” after referring to politicians accepting National Rifle Association donations.

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

Shouts of “enough is enough!” and “No more guns!” echoed through crowds and attendees brandished placards saying “protect lives not guns”.

High profile individuals and social media users have come forward to applaud Ms Gonzales for her courageous speech.

“YESSSSS EMMA GONZALEZ!!!!!!! Thank you for your voice, and for your bravery and honesty while using it," actor Zendaya tweeted.

“Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Emma Gonzalez is a hero,” said Joan Walsh, CNN political contributor. “She's calling out Trump and the NRA by name at this rally. Getting people to reply to NRA talking points with ‘We call BS!’ Most are. A few visibly uncomfortable adults on stage. But not many.”

"We are going to be the last mass shooting," she told the crowd. "We are going to change the law. That's going to be Marjory Stoneman Douglas in that textbook, and it's all going to be due to the tireless efforts of the school board, the faculty members, the family members and most importantly the students."

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