By Hannah Liu
Photos taken by Ian Dickerman
David Hogg, gun control activist and survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shootings, spoke to the students of Newton North High School on February 7th, almost a year after the shooting occurred, about fighting for better gun control and also a better future. Below are some key points made during his speeches given during B and C blocks.
So what we did is the only thing that young people throughout world history are known for doing, and that’s creating good trouble. We went out and spoke truth to power because we realized that we lost our friends, we lost the people that were closest to us. Nothing was going to stop us from speaking out against any organization because no matter what they did to us we had already lost what we cared most about. So we went out and kept speaking against them, and since the march, the next thing that we thought up was what’s next thing that we can do.
What change has to look like is everybody, no matter where we come from, standing up together and getting the same treatment.
In America, we try to categorize these different forms of gun violence as different things. We see mass shootings as different from everyday shootings. We see officer involved shootings as different from everyday gun violence, but in reality they’re all the same thing. They’re all gun violence. We can all relate to it because no matter where we come from in America, no matter our zip code, no matter how much money we make. We’re affected by it in one way or another. Sadly, this suffering has become a uniting cause in the United States, but it’s time for that to change. Because we’ve realized that as young people what makes us free. Freedom does not look like needing to arm yourself to not be afraid of gun violence. What freedom should look like is going to class and not worrying about whether or not we’re going to make it out alive.
No matter how young people vote. No matter which political party we vote for. If we go out there and vote in droves, no matter who is in power; they’re going to have to represent us. Because what representation looks like is of every age, and what it certainly doesn’t look like is only representing your special interests and corporations.
Lots of times people go on this rant about how universal background checks, for example, are unconstitutional. When in reality, I don’t think anybody that’s afraid of a background check should be able to buy a gun.
The truth of the matter is if we got CDC research actually funded, for example, if we put guns under the Consumer Protection act because many people don’t know this because [the NRA] actively fights to suppress this but [they] lobbied to make sure that gun manufacturers and guns produced domestically are not under the Consumer Protection Act. So toy guns are actually more regulated for safety in the United States than actual guns. This results in hundreds of accidental shootings. For children who get access to guns, and it may accidentally goes off and you don’t know it. You know what even if you wanted to sue the gun manufacturer. Guess what? You can’t. It’s against federal law. Guess who lobbied for that. Right? We have to realize no matter where we stand on this issue. The first step to solving it is taking down the NRA and taking down the corporations and gun manufacturers that continue to benefit off gun violence in America. Because you know what happens to gun sales after every mass shooting? They go up by double digits, by triple digits. There are economic powers at will that benefit off this.
I know that this issue is changing. Because for the first time in eight years, we had our first gun violence prevention hearing in congress yesterday (2/6/19).
Because we realize that if over policing our youth and incarcerating our people and throwing them in jail were to stop gun violence, we would not be talking right now. Because we have the highest incarceration rate in the world. That is unacceptable, and that is not what’s going to solve this issue.
The fact that politicians don’t care about us right now is ridiculous. Because they truly don’t, and the only way that we ever change that, especially as young people in America, is by going out there and voting, not just for one political party but by voting against the source of evil, voting against corruption and greed, voting for a better and brighter future for every person, no matter their age in the United States, no matter their zip code, no matter the color of their skin, no matter their orientation, no matter the number of figures in their bank account because in America we should care about every person based off of one thing and that’s the fact that they are a human being. We have to learn to create a better and brighter future where we realize how hypocritical it is to call somebody illegal on stolen land.
No matter where you come from youth is defined not by our age, but by our spirit. It’s defined by the fact that we have a vigor for change. We know that we need change.
The fact that we have a planet that is about to be underwater and congress continues not to acknowledge it is unacceptable. The fact that 40,00 Americans that are disproportionately young people die from preventable gun violence every single year is unacceptable. The fact that we have one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, but we continue to believe that throwing people in prison will end violence or end the war on drugs is unacceptable. Because jailing people for their own suffering has not and will never end violence in America. What will end violence is by having a conversation with each other, having a conversation with our legislatures and making sure they are representing us in the first place.
[The media] doesn’t talk about the young woman that I met in East Oakland who lost 20 friends to gun violence in the past five years and is 18 years old and had been homeless for the past year. The next morning after talking to her about ending gun violence in her community, I get a call from her, that I’ve only heard one other time before, when my sister lost four friends on February 14th, and she calls me, sobbing, explaining how her friend Nia Wilson had her throat slit on the Bart Subway by white supremacists. But her story is not told because of the zip code that she lives in, but her story can be told by us. Her story can continue to live on within us.
Even as the media does not acknowledge the many people that live in communities that have been affected by gun violence for centuries such as an indigenous community where one of the first mass shootings in American history wasn’t Columbine, it wasn’t any of the other ones that we typically know, it’s one that’s in our history textbooks only sometimes, and that’s the Battle of Wounded Knee where several hundred Native Americans were slaughtered and killed by the United States government that we don’t talk about.