Students who survived the Parkland, Florida, school shooting announced plans Monday to tour the country over the summer, registering voters and confronting politicians who have ties to the National Rifle Association.
The survivor-activists said they’ll make about 50 stops in 20 states as they try to force the gun issue back to the fore of politics during the sleepy summer months and ahead of November’s midterm congressional elections.
The effort will also give the students a continuing platform after their pro-gun control march in Washington earlier this year drew extensive attention, but did little to break a years-long stalemate on Capitol Hill.
The students said they’ll pay particular attention to Florida, where they plan stops in all 27 congressional districts, urging voters to make gun control a priority when they cast ballots this year.
“At the end of the day, real change is brought from voting. And too often, voting is shrugged off as nothing in our country,” said Cameron Kasky, one of the leading student activists.
David Hogg, another prominent activist, said the push is about getting “morally just” leaders elected, and on boosting behavioral intervention programs.
Mr. Hogg said the tour will involve speaking with gun owners and NRA supporters, as well as “people that are out in rural America and middle America and … everyday Americans about how these issues affect them and how we can effect change.”
The tour will kick off on June 15 in Chicago, and will include stops in traditionally bluer states like California and Connecticut, as well as states with less stringent gun laws like Texas and South Carolina.
The students used the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as a platform to demand major changes to national and state gun sales laws, earning supportive press coverage.
The National Rifle Association has pushed back, saying the students are getting exploited by a broader propaganda machine fomented by anti-gun groups and politicians.
Second Amendment supporters and law abiding gun owners “are more energized than ever,” said NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker.
“The NRA has seen record increases in our membership and we will continue to register voters and have our members and Second Amendment supporters tell their elected officials they oppose gun control,” she said Monday. “Politicians know Second Amendment supporters show up on Election Day.”
The student activists have made the NRA a particular focus of their activism, demanding politicians refuse to be associated with the power constitutional rights organization.
The students said they’ll make stops in places “where the NRA has bought and paid for politicians who refuse to take simple steps to save our lives,” as well as other communities that have been affected by gun violence.
Mr. Kasky said they’re getting financial support for the effort from individual donations.
The students will be fighting to recapture attention that spiked just after the shooting but has since dropped to background noise.
In March, after the shooting, a record 13 percent of Americans named guns or gun control as the most important problem facing the country, according to Gallup — but that percentage slipped to 6 percent in April and had fallen back down to 3 percent in a May poll conducted prior to last month’s Santa Fe school shooting in Texas.
It’s still an open question as to whether gun control activists, with the help of the new student leaders, can sustain the newfound energy through to November, said Robert J. Spitzer, a political science professor at SUNY Cortland.
“It’s not going to be happening in every district or even most districts, but to get more candidates running against the NRA expressly and embracing some kind of gun policy agenda that they support — if they can do that, that will be significant, I think,” said Mr. Spitzer, who has written extensively on the politics of gun control.
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