Politics

Cuban-American teen thrust into gun debate is allergic to dogs and political ‘B.S.’

Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, addresses a gun control rally

In her electrifying speech, which has gone viral, Gonzalez called out the National Rifle Association, President Donald Trump and the neighbors and relatives of the gunman who knew about his erratic behavior but didn’t act on it.
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In her electrifying speech, which has gone viral, Gonzalez called out the National Rifle Association, President Donald Trump and the neighbors and relatives of the gunman who knew about his erratic behavior but didn’t act on it.

Emma González hasn’t seen “Black Panther” yet. She can’t get her phone to stop ringing long enough to buy a ticket.

Since the Valentine’s Day school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas that left 17 people dead, the 18-year-old González, with her shaved head and bare feet, has been thrust into the national media. Her electrifying speech at last Saturday’s anti-gun rally at the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, which called out President Donald Trump, the National Rifle Association and NRA-backed politicians, has been viewed by millions.

The Stoneman Douglas senior has made the rounds of the talk-show circuit — CNN, Fox, Meet the Press, Ellen — and Wednesday night debated NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch over the ease with which an 18-year-old can buy a semi-automatic rifle in the United States — even though they’re prohibited by law from buying a beer.

“Nonstop, my phone has been ringing,’’ said González, who grew up in Parkland and is the daughter of a Cuban immigrant father. She’s also one of the poster children of the #NeverAgain movement, which sprang up after the shootings by Stoneman Douglas students and is behind the nationwide march against gun violence on March 24.

The Miami Herald spoke with González on Friday. What follows is the conversation, edited for length and clarity:

A lot has been said about how well-spoken and smart you and your classmates are. Where did you learn about politics?

A lot of it was from that AP gov class. Mr. [Jeffrey] Foster is an incredible teacher. If you study from the textbook, you’re not going to get as much as he tells you. I wouldn’t have been able to write the speech without his help.

President Trump has floated an idea that specially trained teachers should be able to carry guns inside classrooms. Do you agree with that?

Schools aren’t war zones; they don’t need to be treated as such. I disagree with that.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Thursday that your school resource officer failed to act during the shooting. Do you blame him?

I don’t really know if I can blame anybody except for the shooter himself and the people he got the gun from. But I am obviously very disappointed that the officer froze when he did. Maybe he could have done something to help.

He was scared. Nobody should have to deal with that, especially at a school. Nobody’s supposed to deal with that stuff. Assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons shouldn’t be sold in the United States. Those are weapons of war and should be reserved for war.

There are a lot of things that need to be discussed here, but the main thing is the weapon itself caused an incredible amount of damage. And it prevented the good guy from getting to him and preventing the damage from getting worse.

I really resent when people are saying that the FBI is to blame for this. That’s not true at all. The FBI helped us get out of the building.

Is Sheriff Israel and the Broward Sheriff’s Office to blame?

When Dana Loesch was going at Scott Israel in the town hall, a lot of people were really upset about the fact that she was laying into him like that, saying that it was his fault, that this should have been prevented because of him. That’s not true. This tragedy would not have been nearly as bad if these guns had not been involved in the first place.

How hopeful are you that lawmakers will put forward reasonable gun reform?

We are all really hoping that they will make the changes that we are asking for. If they don’t listen to us, this is an election year. This is absolutely going to change how this midterm election is going to turn out. The changes that we want to see are not just increased background checks or increased age restrictions.

Your group has received millions of dollars from Hollywood celebrities — George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and others. How do you keep control of #NeverAgain?

Those donations were so generous. They were given to us by people who have enough money to do something like that. And we are eternally grateful for that. But these kids are running everything. They are organizing everything. This is an entirely student-based organization at this point.

Do you expect to go back to school on Wednesday?

Oh yes. Absolutely. If we didn’t go to school, then those 17 people who died who also can’t go to school, what was this for? This whole week is going to be half-days. We’re gonna talk, maybe we’ll have a movie in the background. We’ll watch “She’s the Man.” There’s gonna be grief counselors up the wazoo. A bunch of puppies. There’s never been a worse time for me to be allergic to dogs. There’s been so many support animals around.

What’s it going to be like trying to go back to normal life? Is that even possible?

Emma González used to be a pretty generic name. And now people are spotting my bald head on the street saying, ‘Are you her!?’ People need to remember that it’s not just about me. I was an accidental face in this. I had no idea that speech was gonna be heard on the level that it was heard or paid attention to that much.

I was in complete and utter shock to know that if you type in the letter “E” on Youtube, “Emma González speech” comes up. It’s crazy. I don’t know personally how my life is gonna be after this. I want to go to college. We’re just kids. We just happened to be the ones who were comfortable talking about this in the beginning. Now we’re figureheads for this huge movement. This is not just about the people who are running this. This is about the people who are supporting it.

What have you done to relax? Music, movies?

I have so many Spotify playlists but I do not have time to listen to any of them. I’ve been listening to interviews. I’ve been listening to speeches by other kids. Everybody’s always like, ‘Let’s watch a movie.’ I want to watch a movie with you guys so bad, but I don’t have two minutes to spare, much less two hours.

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