A stark image stood out in a tumultuous week of Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh: The judge declining to shake hands with a man who lost a child in the tragic Parkland, Florida school shooting in February.
Kavanaugh walked away from the father of Jaime Guttenberg, who was among 17 people murdered in the Valentine's Day rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The encounter sparked a range of responses from Twitter users, with many suggesting that it was a visual representation of where conservatives stand on gun control reform.
Kavanaugh has defended his dissent in a case related to a ban on semi-automatic rifles—the weapon of choice in the Parkland slayings. Still, the judge, whose two daughters joined him (for a time) at the hearings, says he knows the U.S. must address gun violence.
Eastmond was appalled by the judge’s refusal to engage with Jaime’s dad at the hearing: “The amount of disrespect is unimaginable, and this is who, ‘so-called President’ nominated,” tweeted the Parkland senior. “See you Friday Kavanaugh.”
At the hearing, she used the horror she had seen at her own school (she hid under the body of a dead classmate to survive the shooting), and also the loss of an uncle to a shooting in Brooklyn, New York, to raise questions about Kavanaugh's views on gun control: "As you make your final decision, think about it as if you had to justify and defend your choice to those who we lost to gun violence," she urged the committee in her prepared remarks.
On the eve of her Senate testimony, Eastmond talked to Glamour about her decision to speak against Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Here are the highlights, in her own words.
I'm here to testify at Kavanaugh's hearing [so] people can understand that gun violence is an everyday problem… Lives are being taken every day. And not only that, but lives in urban communities, every day.
I was there on February 14th. And I was in Room 1214, which was the third classroom the shooter shot into, and I had to hide underneath one of my deceased classmate's bodies to survive. That is the story that I'm sharing [so] people can understand that it's not, you know, normal. And it shouldn't be normalized.
I saw things that nobody should have seen and that nobody should have to see in their lifetime. Being in school, [a] place where you should feel safe and you're learning—in fact, I was in Holocaust History [class], learning about hate and terror. And just to experience that right after going over [a] hate groups project was just unimaginable, and a coincidence.
Hearing gunshots and not knowing what gunshots sound like. Not knowing what to do and then just thinking in a survival-mode type of way to do what I did, which was hide underneath a body. Smelling the gunpowder and seeing the smoke, and seeing the red on the floor and having flesh and body matter in my hair. At the age of 17 in school — [well] I was 16 at the time — that shouldn't be.
I shouldn't have to be talking about this, and I'm not the only one that has this story. There's people all over the country that share similar stories.
It's something that nobody wants to talk about — and it's something that I am forced to talk about every day. [It’s] not only just what I experienced, but the fact that black and brown youth are disproportionately impacted by gun violence every day.
I don't think [Kavanaugh] should be [a] Supreme Court judge. Period. [If] we're gonna have a judge on the highest court of the land, they need to be a judge that recognizes the issue of gun violence and the epidemic that the youth is experiencing every day, and he doesn't recognize that it's a problem, so I don't think he should be getting that seat.
[Based on] his comments towards the Second Amendment, he doesn't believe it should be altered or changed at all because it's "a well-regulated militia" and everybody deserves the right to own a gun. But I disagree, because your freedom to own a gun is not more important than my freedom to live.
If he doesn't have the decency to shake a hand of a father of a victim, he definitely will not have the decency to make changes and decisions that will impact the lives of people every day… I honestly just think we need a different nominee. I think we've seen enough of Kavanaugh, and I don't think we should wait any longer for him to say anything else, because we clearly know what his stance is on the Second Amendment and other things as well.
I'm sure Fred Guttenberg [father of Parkland student Jaime Guttenberg] would have loved to bring his daughter.
Fred had a daughter, too, that lost her life on February 14. And I don't appreciate Kavanaugh not addressing that. I feel like he will [not] recognize that it's an issue until he loses one of his kids, or until he loses a family member, so he understands the pain and the way that it impacts you and that it's senseless.
So that's how I look at it: [Kavanaugh] can bring his kids wherever, but don't wait until your kids are gone for you to care.
I have faith that he will not [be confirmed]. I hope he doesn't, but I can't tell the future. All I know is that we're [going] to share our stories and our views and opinions on him, and hopefully they hear us out and they take action.
At times, it's frustrating, because I shouldn't have this story and I shouldn't have had to experienced that. But it is important that I share my story, so people can again get a different perspective and understand that it is an issue that impacts everybody — no matter the color of their skin or where they live. It is a problem in America, and it needs to be fixed.
Right now, I'm okay, because I have my fellow Team ENOUGH members supporting me here. So I'm not worried, and I know that we are stronger than Kavanaugh and any of his views, and I know that we can take him down, no matter what.
You can watch Eastmond's full testimony, here.
Celeste Katz is senior politics reporter for Glamour. Send news tips, questions, and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.