An activist and school shooting survivor spoke about gun control and youth activism in Jack Morton Auditorium Saturday.
David Hogg, who survived the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida and became a key figure in the following March for Our Lives protest, discussed the intersectionality of gun violence and youth involvement in politics at a GW College Democrats event co-sponsored by GW’s March for Our Lives chapter. School of Media and Public Affairs Director Frank Sesno moderated the event, which about 200 people attended.
Hogg said his work ethic and zeal for activism were instilled in him at a young age by his parents, one of whom worked in the FBI and the other of whom was a public school teacher.
“From that young age, I knew that I wanted to figure out how to serve my community in any way possible,” he said.
Hogg said his dyslexia pushed him to pursue TV production in high school because it helped him fit in socially with his peers. He added that his interest in storytelling prompted him to use his phone to interview peers during the shooting at his high school while hiding in a closet.
“I found myself interviewing those students almost as a way of pulling myself out of that situation, making me think, ‘I’m not there,’” he said.
Hogg said he transitioned from an eyewitness of the shooting to an activist because of the sense of responsibility he felt as a member of his community and as an older brother. He recalled a distressing call from his younger sister, a freshman at the same high school, and said the pain he felt was “pretty unimaginable.”
“I knew if we let talking heads get on CNN and debate this issue and then just move on, nothing was going to happen,” Hogg said.
He said he and March for Our Lives organizers hope to increase youth voter turnout in the 2020 election cycle to raise awareness for the movement’s Peace Plan for a Safer America, a policy platform aimed at reducing gun violence. The plan calls for federal action in promoting six goals outlined by the activists, like changing gun ownership standards and halving the rate of gun deaths within a decade.
“Our rallying cry is talking about how we can elect politicians who protect kids, not guns,” he said.
Hogg said he tries to approach intersectionality with historically disadvantaged communities with a sense of humility and by acknowledging that he doesn’t understand communities that aren’t his own. Hogg added that he approaches activism with the understanding that it is an issue influenced by varied factors like race, mental health and socioeconomic status.
“Given the fact that I’m a cisgender white male, I try to use that to get into the room so that my fellow peace warriors can get in too,” he said.
Hogg said he hopes to redefine what being an American means and what Americans value in shifting the narrative about gun ownership.
“In America, our definition of freedom should not be having a gun to inflict pain upon what you don’t know,” he said.