Emma Gonzalez is disappointed in adults ― and she has good reason to be.
The 18-year-old survivor of the school massacre in Parkland, Florida, wrote a powerful essay in Harper’s Bazaar on Monday urging adults to grow up and take action against America’s rampant gun violence. Since the Feb. 14 shooting that killed 17 people, Gonzalez has been an outspoken critic of the National Rifle Association and legislators who take money from the gun rights group.
Gonzalez began her essay by listing a few qualities about herself: She’s Cuban-American, bisexual and loves to sew, embroider and paint. Anything, she says, she can do while watching Netflix. But that doesn’t matter, Gonzalez points out. What does matter is swift and targeted action against senseless gun violence.
“What matters is that the majority of American people have become complacent in a senseless injustice that occurs all around them,” she wrote. “What matters is that most American politicians have become more easily swayed by money than by the people who voted them into office. What matters is that my friends are dead, along with hundreds upon hundreds of others all over the United States.”
The South Florida attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is the 17th school shooting in 2018 alone, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, based on reports of any type of gunfire at or near a school. Since then, student activists including Gonzalez have organized, rallied and called on lawmakers to enact stricter gun laws.
Gonzalez reiterated that students who survived the shooting are “tired of being ignored.”
“We are speaking up for those who don’t have anyone listening to them, for those who can’t talk about it just yet, and for those who will never speak again,” she wrote. “We are grieving, we are furious, and we are using our words fiercely and desperately because that’s the only thing standing between us and this happening again.”
She chastised those who have criticized her and her fellow teen activists for being too emotional.
“Adults are saying that children are emotional,” she wrote. “I should hope so ― some of our closest friends were taken before their time because of a senseless act of violence that should never have occurred. If we weren’t emotional, they would criticize us for that, as well.”
And she had a clear message for any adults who believe her and the other teens are being disrespectful.
“Adults are saying that children are disrespectful. But how can we respect people who don’t respect us? We have always been told that if we see something wrong, we need to speak up; but now that we are, all we’re getting is disrespect from the people who made the rules in the first place. Adults like us when we have strong test scores, but they hate us when we have strong opinions.”
The high school senior also pointed out how problematic it is that President Donald Trump suggested addressing gun violence by arming teachers.
“Teachers do not need to be armed with guns to protect their classes, they need to be armed with a solid education in order to teach their classes,” she wrote. “That’s the only thing that needs to be in their job description.”
Gonzalez concluded her essay with a powerful metaphor: “It should not be easier to purchase a gun than it is to obtain a driver’s license, and military-grade weapons should not be accessible in civilian settings. You don’t drive a NASCAR on the street, no matter how fun it might be, just like you don’t need an AR-15 to protect yourself when walking home at night. No one does.”
The most important takeaway, she noted, is that the survivors of this tragedy can hope to do what the victims are not able to do: return to a safe school to continue their education.
“We want to know that when we walk onto campus, we won’t have to worry about the possibility of staring down the barrel of a gun. We want to fix this problem so it doesn’t occur again, but mostly we want people to forget about us once this is over,” Gonzalez wrote. “We want to go back to our lives and live them to the fullest in respect for the dead.”
Head over to Harper’s Bazaar to read Gonzalez’s full essay.