Emma Gonzalez, a student survivor of the Parkland school shooting in Florida has called out US President Donald Trump over his ties to the powerful National Rifle Association.
It was at a rally by hundreds to demand urgent action on gun control.
Three days after a troubled teen armed with an assault rifle killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, 18-year-old Gonzalez delivered a fiery address to a crowd of students, parents and residents in nearby Ft. Lauderdale.
“To every politician taking donations from the NRA, shame on you!” she thundered, assailing Trump over the multi-million-dollar support his campaign received from the gun lobby — and prompting the crowd to chant in turn: “Shame on you!”
“We are going to be the last mass shooting,” she vowed. “We are going to change the law,” she said — 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.
“The question on whether or not people should be allowed to own an automatic weapon is not a political one. It is question of life or death and it needs to stop being a question of politics,” Gonzalez told AFP following her speech.
In Washington, the political response has made clear that the powerful NRA pro-gun lobby remains formidable, while Trump himself suggested the root cause of mass shootings was a crisis of mental health — making no mention of gun control.
“If the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and… 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,” Gonzalez said in her impassioned address.
“It doesn’t matter because I already know. Thirty million,” she told the rally attended by fellow students, parents and local officials, citing the sum spent by the NRA to support Trump’s election bid and defeat Hillary Clinton.
She then ran through a list of the pro-gun lobby’s talking points — for example, that “a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun,” that no law could ever stop a madman intent on killing — answering each argument with “We call BS.”
The young woman’s powerful address immediately went viral, with her name a top trending topic on Twitter.
Trump tweeted a day after the massacre that neighbours and fellow students had failed to flag Cruz to the authorities.
“We did,” Gonzalez fired back at Trump, her voice shaking with emotion as she insisted the community had done its best to raise the alarm.
“Time and time again. Since he was in middle school. It was no surprise to anyone who knew him to hear that he was the shooter.”
US authorities have come under mounting scrutiny for failing to act on a series of warning signs.
The FBI admitted Friday it received a chilling warning in January from a tipster who said Cruz could be planning a mass shooting, but that agents failed to follow up.