National Rifle Association-endorsed Southern California Republicans who are running for re-election, like Reps. Steve Knight (Palmdale), Dana Rohrabacher (Costa Mesa) and Mimi Walters (Irvine), should take notice of the powerful voices coming from student survivors in Parkland, Florida.
On Monday, survivors of last week’s deadly shooting Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg told CNN’s “New Day” they will not be attending Trump’s “listening session” this week.
“I believe we’ve been invited, but neither of us are going,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez, who made national news for her blistering speech at a gun control rally this weekend, said they have a prior town hall meeting with Jake Tapper.
But the refusal is also a rebuke to Trump, who conducted himself with shocking insensitivity in the wake of the shooting. He tried to blame the massacre on the students and the Russia investigation, and posed for a beaming thumbs-up with the first responders and nurses who tried to save mortally wounded children, as if expecting adulation for being on the scene of a national tragedy.
As Gonzalez and Hogg noted, Trump is only part of the problem. The entire NRA political machine is culpable in their friends’ deaths.
Asked if she had any words for the NRA, Gonzalez said, “Disband, dismantle … don’t make another organization under a different name. Don’t you dare come back here.”
In response to the point that the NRA gives millions to politicians to vote their way, Gonzalez had a blunt response.
“If they accept this blood money, they are against the children. They are against the people who are dying,” she said. “There’s no other way to put it at this point. You’re either funding the killers, or you’re standing with the children. The children who have no money. We don’t have jobs. So we can’t pay for your campaign. We would hope that you have the decent morality to support us at this point.”
“If you can’t get elected without taking money from child murderers,” added Hogg, “why are you running?”
While the students make powerful statements imploring politicians to pass legislation so no other students must endure what they endured — watching classmates shot to death with an assault rifle — Southern California Republicans continue to accept, in the words of the students, “blood money” from “child murderers”: Knight has accepted $15,000 in campaign cash from the gun lobby. Walters has taken $14,000, and Rohrabacher has accepted more than $50,000.
Many in America are coming to the same conclusion as these students, with one wealthy Florida Republican megadonor refusing to fund another campaign until his party restricts assault weapons.
In Southern California, Harley Rouda, one of the Democrats seeking to oust Rohrabacher, took to Twitter to blast Trump for choosing to play golf rather than attend the funeral of one of the victims.
Meanwhile, students like Gonzalez and Hogg are organizing and refusing to allow politicians to shape the narrative of the tragedy they survived. And that includes the president.