'Shut the f*** up and change the law on guns'
Almost 20 years after the Columbine massacre, and days after yet another deadly school shooting, a new generation of US pupils has had enough
Almost a year after two teenagers murdered 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School in 1999, then president Bill Clinton visited the Colorado town and reiterated his call for greater gun control.
'“I don’t want any future president to have to go to Columbine or to Springfield, Oregon, or to Jonesboro, Arkansas, or to any of the other places I have been,” Clinton said, rattling off some of the sites of recent shootings.
“It is tough enough to comfort the families of our servicemen and women who die in the line of duty. Children have no duties, except to their studies and their families. Our duty is to protect their lives, and give them futures.”Almost 20 years after the horrific attack, there have been three different presidents, and three school shootings that have proved even deadlier, including the latest atrocity at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
By one estimate, more than 150,000 pupils attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus since the massacre in Colorado.
By the time the latest gun attack took place on Wednesday, there had been a school shooting every 60 hours in the US.
Today’s high school pupils were not even born when Columbine took place. They have grown up in an era of active-shooter drills, some have seen metal detectors introduced to keep out guns, and bulletproof backpacks are now available to buy.
What hasn’t changed much are the gun laws, and the survivors of the latest tragedy have had enough.“To every politician taking donations from the NRA (National Rifle Association), shame on you!” declared Emma Gonzalez, an 18-year-old pupil who delivered a fiery address to a crowd of pupils, parents and residents in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday.
She attacked Donald Trump over the multimillion-dollar support his campaign received from the gun lobby, drawing chants of “shame on you” from the crowd.
She also criticised him for overturning a measure implemented by former president Barack Obama that required extra scrutiny of some gun buyers with a history of mental illness.
“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,” Gonzalez said.
“We are going to be the last mass shooting ... We are going to change the law,” she vowed, slamming the fact that 19-year-old gunman Nikolas Cruz was able to legally buy a semi-automatic firearm despite a history of troubling and violent behaviour.
Laying the blame
Gonzalez is among a number of survivors who have pleaded for gun control, calling out the US president who has said little about the subject.
Instead of saying what he planned to do about gun control, he pointed the finger of blame on Saturday at Democrats and the FBI.
In his first spoken comments on the shooting on Thursday, the president had said it was too early to discuss the issue.
It was not too soon for one pupil, who spoke to student journalist David Hogg while hiding in a cupboard at the school on Wednesday afternoon as the horror was unfolding outside.
“I personally have rallied for gun rights … but this experience has changed my viewpoint,” she said.
“This experience was so traumatising to the point where now I can’t even fathom the idea of a gun in my house or on my body.”Fox News pundit Tomi Lahren was among a number of conservatives, including Trump, who tried to deflect the blame from the guns and onto the culprit instead, calling it the action of a “lunatic”.
Carly Novell’s tweeted response went viral: “I was hiding in a closet for two hours. It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don’t know how it felt.
“Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns.”
Another pupil, Kyra, echoed the sentiment. “A gun has killed 17 of my fellow classmates. A gun has traumatised my friends. My entire school, traumatised from this tragedy. This could have been prevented. Please stfu [shut the f*** up] tomi.”
In an interview with CNN, Hogg directed his message to the politicians: ‘‘Please, take action. Ideas are great. Ideas are wonderful and they help you get re-elected and everything. But what’s more important is actual action, and pertinent action, that results in saving thousands of children’s lives. Please, take action.’’
At the rally in central Fort Lauderdale, thousands of angry pupils, parents and teachers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School demanded immediate action on gun-control legislation, insisting they would not relent until their demands were met.At a vigil on Thursday for the victims, a crowd of more than 1,000, consisting largely of pupils, chanted: “No more guns! No more guns!”
When Trump visited Florida on Friday he went to the hospital to meet two survivors and later met first responders. The matter of gun control was never raised.
Pupils elsewhere have started joining the chorus from Parkland.
On Friday, about 100 pupils from South Broward High School walked out of school to protest against gun violence, and a National Walk Out is planned for the Columbine anniversary on April 20.
Not far from the rally on Saturday, the opposite side of the debate was on full display.
At a gun show in Miami, Mike Vallone was buying an AR-15, the firearm used on Wednesday and the weapon of choice of several mass shooters. He voiced a familiar argument: “This does nothing by itself. This takes a human being to take the rifle, point it and shoot someone.
“The focus on gun control is an error and it won’t stop someone determined to commit crimes.”
— © The Daily TelegraphTrump dumps blame on FBI
US President Donald Trump said on Saturday the FBI was so caught up in the Russia probe that it failed to heed signs that could have prevented the Parkland school shooting.
“Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable,” he wrote on Twitter.
“They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign — there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”