David Hogg, a survivor of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018 that took 17 lives, spoke in the Memorial Union Building (MUB) at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) on Wednesday to discuss the organization that he has since co-founded, March for Our Lives.
“The number one thing that our leaders are supposed to be doing is protecting the future of our country. When our children are dying in school on a daily basis, they are absolutely failing to do that,” Hogg said.
March for Our Lives’ website asserts their mission, “to harness the power of young people across the country to fight for sensible gun violence prevention policies that save lives.”
Hogg began his speech by outlining the scene at his high school when the fatal shooting occurred. He described being in his classroom and film-interviewing students, as no one knew what would happen next. Hogg noted that the thing he remembered most from the day was the crying. He described hearing his sister wailing on the way home from the school, mourning after the horrors she and so many others had seen.
Very soon after the tragic shooting, the March for Our Lives movement began to build. Hogg and fellow students began utilizing social media, talking with people, reaching out about this cause and communicating with groups combatting gun violence.
Soon, the group came up with an idea to have students walk out of their schools across the country to protest gun violence and feeling unsafe in their communities. Millions of students participated in the walk-out on March 14, 2018. This inspired the next part of their movement: a march. March for Our Lives was created with the idea to “protest gun violence and demand peace.” Starting with around 10 marches, there ended up being 800 marches around the world on March 24, 2018. There was a March for Our Lives march that occurred in Washington, D.C. Hogg described the small group’s hope for around 90 people to attend. They were shocked when 800,000 people showed up.
“That’s when we knew, things are gonna change,” Hogg said.
“These are not just f****** numbers, these are human beings,” Hogg said while making the point that headlines or “talking heads” on television often focus on the number of casualties and do not fully grasp that these were people with lives. Hogg explained that while he sometimes views social media as toxic, he was and is able to use it as a tool to communicate and help start a movement, at one point using the hashtag #neveragain. Since helping start this movement, Hogg has gained over one million followers on Twitter.
Following the success of the marches, Hogg and his group decided their next move would be to travel across the country, visiting places such as Chicago, Dallas and California. Hogg recalled a certain conversation he had with a man in Dallas, who was part of a group of armed protestors yelling “where’s that David Hogg kid?”
“Why are you trying to take away our guns?” the man said to him.
“[It’s] pretty simple, man. Are you a domestic terrorist?” Hogg responded.
“No, I’m a god-loving American,” the man said.
“Are you planning on hurting yourself or hurting anybody else?” Hogg asked.
The man said no.
“Okay, then I’m not trying to take your guns away. And if I was, it would be through an extreme risk protection order that gives you a right to counsel. Often times many states give you a better right to counsel for taking your guns away than if you were having your kids taken away,” Hogg said.
The man asked Hogg why he should not be able to have his AR-15 (that he was carrying.)
“You know the weapon that you’re holding right there, what do you use it for?” Hogg said. The man said he uses it to protect his family in his home. Hogg explained to the man, “the weapon that you’re using, with the .223 [bullet] that likely is used, the same type of bullet that was used in my school, is so powerful that yeah, you’re definitely gonna kill whatever you’re shooting with it, but guess what? It’s gonna go through that person, through the wall, and into your kid. I personally don’t believe those weapons of war have any place in our streets and you can defend your family in other ways that don’t use that weapon in the first place.” The man said that while he didn’t completely agree, Hogg had a point that an AR-15 was a powerful weapon.
“We’re kids that simply don’t want our friends to die, and that’s pretty hard to argue with that, a lot of the time.” Hogg said on the idea of resistance to the March for Our Lives movement.
The group then travelled to California, and visited the headquarters of the Black Panther organization, which is where Hogg realized that some people don’t really care about the Second Amendment or making gun laws, they care about the enforcement of white supremacy in the first place.
“I don’t think we’ve seen a [clearer] example of that than we did more recently in Virginia,” Hogg said.
The group then moved onto Virginia, with the goal of flipping congressional districts. Hogg described the 200-300 percent spike in voter turnout for young people in Virginia. Hogg said that more districts were taken from the National Rifle Association than had ever been taken in American history. In Virginia’s election, the House, Senate, and government all became Democrat-run, and became what Hogg calls a “gun-sense majority.”
In Virginia, “high school students that simply don’t want to be shot in their schools or in their communities could not show up with their voices and a bunch of flowers because they were met with 22,000 armed protestors that said that they were peaceful, but in my opinion holding a city hostage is not peaceful,” Hogg said.
The speech ended with Hogg sharing something he had written up, including the idea that “we must turn our pain into action until there are no more ‘moments of silence.’”
He took questions from the audience on note cards ranging from topics such as if he will pursue a career in politics, how he felt when so many people showed up at the D.C. March for Our Lives, white supremacy, and social media.
In an interview with The New Hampshire, Hogg said that the words he lives by are “peace, justice, and hope.” When asked what the number one thing people can do to help this movement, Hogg gave a one-word answer: “vote.” Additionally, Hogg encourages students to join the UNH chapter of March for Our Lives.
“We’re not your stereotypical nonprofit, we do some pretty awesome s***… even though it’s hard work it can be really fun,” he said.
Since the beginning of the March for Our Lives movement, Hogg described a very impactful moment, when he was standing behind the Speaker of the House and he saw “universal background checks get passed through the House.”
“Two years prior to the shooting I had been debating that very topic about whether or not we should implement universal background checks,” he said.
Hogg ended his speech with this powerful statement to the audience. “We have to recognize that no gun is worth a classmate, a spouse, a brother, or a child. No gun is worth the future of America.”