The Current

Parkland shooting survivors delivered more 'powerful' message than any politician: author

In the immediate aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., last year, author David Cullen went there to meet the survivors who were leading a political discussion on gun violence in the U.S. He's written a book about how a group of young people living through a nightmare found the energy and clarity to exert such an enormous influence.

Dave Cullen says there's something different about Parkland shooting survivors

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez (centre) listens with other students during the March for Our Lives Rally in Washington, D.C., on March 24, 2018.

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The survivors of the Parkland school shooting are having a greater impact on how people understand the U.S. gun violence debate than most politicians, according to a writer who has covered the issue for years.

"After each of the tragedies … Columbine, Virginia Tech, and especially Newtown, where those little kids died, we were sure something would change," said Dave Cullen, the author of Columbine, an account of the 1999 shooting at the school of the same name.

"We thought the momentum was there, and Barack Obama made it a huge part of his state of the union address … and what we didn't realize is the president wasn't the right leader [to address the issue]," he told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

While Obama may not have been "the right messenger," Cullen argued that the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting are resonating with people in a different way.

One year ago Thursday, a gunman murdered 17 students and staff members, and injured many more at the school in Parkland, Fla. In the wake of the shooting, a group of student survivors founded the #NeverAgain movement, lobbying politicians and staging massive protests across the U.S. calling for greater gun control.

Dave Cullen is an American journalist and author. He looks at what sets the student survivors of last year's Florida school shooting apart in his latest book, Parkland: Birth of a Movement. (HarperCollins/

Amazed by their activism and leadership in the aftermath of such a traumatic event, Cullen travelled to Florida to meet with the survivors. His new book Parkland: Birth of a Movement details the weeks he spent with them.

He remembers a speech by Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez, where she called out the arguments and rhetoric around gun violence in the United States.

Listen to the speech Emma Gonzalez gave during a gun control rally last year.

"When we hear Emma and her voice breaking, I think we don't just see and hear someone who escaped with her life. We see and hear the future kids who are still going to die," said Cullen.

"That's so much more powerful than Barack Obama ever could be."

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

Produced by Julie Crysler.