Aalayah Eastmond, a survivor of the Parkland, Florida shooting massacre that killed 17 people earlier this year, pressed members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to “remember my story” when they vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who was seen appearing to turn down shaking hands with the father of a Parkland victim a few days prior.
The senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas used her testimony Friday to demand that lawmakers think of her and her friends before they confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Eastmond, 17, wore a T-shirt and sat among career lawyers and other advocates on a panel before the committee, where she described how she thought she might die in her fourth-period Holocaust history class when a gunman stormed her school. She recalled how Helena Ramsay, a fellow student who died in the attack, passed her books so she and other students could shield themselves. Then she heard gunfire in her classroom.
“I looked up and saw Helena Ramsay slumped against the wall, I began smelling and inhaling the smoke and gun powder. Then Nicholas Dworet rapidly fell over in front of me,” Eastmond said.
She told the committee that was when she prayed she would die quickly and recalled later using Dworet’s dead body as a shield. Days later, she said, her mother experienced a miscarriage from the stress and shock of her experience.
As she started describing how gun violence disproportionately affects children of color, Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, put his head in his hands and rubbed his eyes.
“As you consider what you do and who to appoint to make us safer from gun violence, remember my story,” Eastmond said. “Remember my classmates who died. Remember the victims of color that face mass shootings every day. Remember all victims of gun violence from Parkland, Brooklyn, Miami, Milwaukee, Oakland and all over America.”
The day before Eastmond’s testimony, Kavanaugh was grilled about his judicial opinions regarding firearms and the support he’s received from the National Rifle Association.
Kavanaugh, who has previously argued assault weapons are in “common use” and protected by the Second Amendment, was asked if he still supported that view.
Declining to answer the question directly, Kavanaugh said that semi-automatic rifles cannot be distinguished from semi-automatic handguns, as both are still “widely possessed in the United States” and are not considered unusually dangerous. He added he was following Supreme Court precedent in his decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, the landmark guns rights ruling from 2008.
“That seemed to fit common use and not being a dangerous and unusual weapon,” he said of his opinion in the Heller decision. “I was trying to follow strictly and carefully the Supreme Court precedent.”
Kavanaugh allowed, in defending himself, that “the violence in the schools is something we all detest and want to do something about.”
Cover image: Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Thursday September 6, 2018. Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images.