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Parkland survivor David Hogg is not giving up on gun reform : NPR

Oct 05, 2023


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Tonya Mosley, and my guest today is gun control activist David Hogg. This spring, Hogg graduated from Harvard University five years after surviving one of the deadliest school shootings in American history. In 2018, 17 students were killed and 17 others injured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., when a former student went on a shooting rampage. Hogg, who was a senior at the time, was in his AP Environmental Sciences class when he heard the gunshots. He credits a janitor who directed him and several other classmates to hide in a closet with saving his life. Hogg and several other classmates became the face of this tragedy. Here is Hogg shortly after the shooting, speaking to CNN.


DAVID HOGG: My message to lawmakers in Congress is please take action. Ideas are great. Ideas are wonderful, and they help you get reelected and everything. But what's more important is actual action and pertinent action that results in saving thousands of children's lives. What we really need is action 'cause we can say, yes, we're going to do all these things - thoughts and prayers. What we need more than that is action. Please. This is the 18th one this year. That's unacceptable. We're children. You guys, like, are the adults.

MOSLEY: Soon after, Hogg and several other students created March for Our Lives, a youth-led effort to eliminate the epidemic of gun violence. More than 800,000 people marched in DC a month after that shooting. And speaking to the crowd, Hogg said, when politicians send their thoughts and prayers with no action, we say, no more. In 2018, Hogg co-wrote a book titled "#NeverAgain: A New Generation Draws The Line" with his sister, Lauren, who was a ninth grader at Stoneman Douglas at the time of the massacre. Hogg is also a vocal critic of lawmakers who take donations from the NRA and has called on elected officials to pass stronger gun control laws.

David Hogg, welcome to FRESH AIR, and congrats on graduating from Harvard.

HOGG: Thank you. I appreciate it.

MOSLEY: You know, David, every time you're interviewed, you are asked to relive parts of that day five years ago. What goes through your mind when you hear that clip of yourself there at 18 talking to CNN?

HOGG: How much has changed in many ways outside of politics but how much inside of politics is still the same, even though the political dynamics have dramatically changed since that time period.

MOSLEY: You became a major voice that the media called on in those early days because of your knowledge and ability to calmly and clearly express not only what happened in the moment but these larger ramifications and the call to action. I've heard you mention that at the time, you were actually on the debate team, and at some point, you all had debated the impact of school resource officers in schools. What else do you think prepared you for handling such a horrific situation and being able to speak about it?

HOGG: Frankly, you know, a really good education system. You know, I think that's one of the ironies - is after the shooting, as I'm sure you're well aware, there were a lot of conspiracy theories about me, you know, being some kind of paid actor by the government coming to take everyone's guns or whatever because people couldn't believe that teenagers could be so eloquent and know so much, right?

They literally thought it was more likely that we worked for some government agency trying to take everybody's guns instead of the fact that we could have a public education system that actually did its job and prepared and equipped its students to lead in moments like that because I had spent years debating issues like gun - how do we prevent gun violence on both sides, arguing, you know, for looser gun laws and arguing for stronger gun laws 'cause you have to argue on both sides on my debate team. And also taking TV production - I think that's what prepared me. And ironically, that's why so many people just could not believe that we actually were just students that - you know, they literally went to conspiracy theories instead of believing that our public education system could work, which is really sad, frankly.

MOSLEY: Right. People called you a crisis actor. They thought that even you - because at the time, in the moment, you pulled out your phone and started to record and calmly spoke about what happened and what was happening in the moment. And people thought that that had to be fake because how could you be so calm?

HOGG: Well, I think there were a couple of things that helped me in that, you know, it was my instinct. I moved to Parkland in the middle of my freshman year of high school. And the - part of the reason why we moved there is because my family couldn't afford to live in California anymore, and my dad had to medically retire because he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. And if you're an FBI agent and you, you know, have a gun, you obviously aren't necessarily going to be able to keep your job at the pay grade that it's at.

MOSLEY: Yeah. Your dad was an FBI agent.

HOGG: Exactly. And if you have Parkinson's, you can't shoot straight, possibly. So knowing that, my family moved to Parkland. And from that, I think when I moved there, it was just my natural instinct to lean on my camera and my TV production classes to tell other people's stories as a way of, you know, getting introduced to the social scene at the school because you didn't need to have, you know, friends to go to a football game if you were just there for TV production. So I think in moments where I didn't really know what to do with myself, I naturally turned to my camera and started interviewing other people. And given what I knew about speech and debate, given what I knew about the NRA and preventing gun violence, I knew that the natural cycle of these things was, you know, the NRA coming out and saying, you know, nobody can talk about these things right now because you're politicizing tragedy.

And I knew if the very kids - you know, in that moment, you know, I was in the building next to where the shooting happened. But our school in Parkland is an outside school. So I heard gunshots because it was echoing between the buildings. I heard kids screaming, right? And you don't know if there are multiple shooters. You don't know what's going on. But in that moment, not knowing if we'd make it out of that classroom alive, I interviewed my classmates so that if we didn't make it out of there, hopefully our voices would carry on and it wouldn't be possible for the NRA and gun lobby to say, oh, you can't talk about this; you're politicizing this, if the very children - which we were at the time - who died in that shooting said you need to do something and recorded their last moments saying that.

MOSLEY: We just marked the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were killed. And I've heard you say your first reaction was to feel guilt. And I think to a certain extent, we all feel that we let those children in that community down. But why is guilt the emotion that you feel?

HOGG: Well, I mean, you know, we came out of Parkland saying, never again, over and over. A lot of the students were saying that. That was our original hashtag that we had when we started speaking out after the shooting. And unfortunately, that wasn't the case. It did happen again thousands of times.

And I think it just really hit home how hard this work is and how even if you have, you know, moral clarity of children saying that we need to do something to improve gun laws to stop somebody like a deranged 19-year-old, you know, from legally obtaining an AR-15 and being able to continue to own that AR-15 after he repeatedly threatened to shoot up my high school, I think it's just that we were told time and time again after Parkland, oh, thank God the kids are here to save us. You know, my generation really messed up, and you kids will save us, and how wrong it is, you know, to - for older generations to just absolve themselves and say, you know what? We can't do it. We're just going to put it all on you kids, you know, the survivors of gun violence to solve this, and it's up to you. And we need everybody in this fight.

MOSLEY: Let's take a short break. If you're just joining us, I'm talking with March for Our Lives co-founder David Hogg. Hogg became an active gun reform activist after surviving the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. He graduated this spring from Harvard University. This is FRESH AIR.


MOSLEY: This is FRESH AIR. And today we're talking to David Hogg, gun reform activist and co-founder of March for Our Lives, a national movement which Hogg and his classmates created after surviving the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed and 17 others injured.

Every time there is a school shooting, there is then the surge of - I guess the best term is optimism for a generation like yours. Your classmates - you and your classmates formed March for Our Lives. And it felt so big. It felt so - a chance at possibly getting at something. And most of the gun regulation laws since Parkland have happened - they've happened on the state level. The biggest that we've seen, though, on the federal level is the bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which happened last year, shortly after Uvalde. Among other things, this act allocates federal funds for mental health services and adds stronger - a stronger review process for those under 21 who are seeking a firearm. You've been vocal in saying that while this act was less than you hoped for, it was more than had been done in your lifetime. How are you feeling about this progress a year later?

HOGG: Well, I think it's good progress. But the thing is, it's - in politics, it's much more about the perception than it is about the reality, right? If people just think that, oh, this is just a really small law and that it didn't really matter, but they don't look at it as what it was - which I think the most significant thing about the law is that it was opposed by the NRA. It was opposed by the NRA, and it still passed despite needing to get 10 Republicans or whatever it was exactly.

MOSLEY: Well, this act is more than had happened during your lifetime. But one thing that didn't happen and is always the line in the sand on this is the ban of assault weapons. And the big argument against this continues to be that this kind of ban infringes on Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, that banning, essentially, semiautomatic weapons won't stop school shootings. You have made a point to say that's a flawed interpretation of the Second Amendment. When you are out talking, because you talk with everyone on both sides of the aisle, this is always the point where the conversation stops, or it stalls. How do you reconcile that as you're moving through and trying to have these conversations with people about gun violence?

HOGG: The reality is, right now, I'd rather focus on what we can agree on, which is that, you know, we need to do something. We need to act. And we agree that gun violence, no matter if we're on the left or right, is unacceptable. School shootings, daily acts of gun violence, you know, ridiculous numbers of gun suicides that are preventable are unacceptable. And we do need to do something about it. So what I try to do instead is, you know, I say, whenever I'm in conversations like this - so there was a, this past semester - I don't mean to dwell on this point. But this past semester, I - after one of the many unfortunate shootings that have happened, I decided the only thing that I haven't done at this point was learn as much as I can about guns and how to use them, operate them, clean them and fire them safely and responsibly.

And I joined the shooting club at my college. And I talked with a lot of young people there who were actually pretty supportive of the work that I was doing, along with some people who obviously were not, because not - nobody is always going to be in agreement about everything. But through that process, I realized that, you know, there's a lot more agreement than disagreement out there, even with people who think that they're completely against us. And it's not just about - we have to move beyond this binary of either it's you're only talking about guns and how people access them or you're only talking about mental health. We have to talk about both - right? - but with nuance around it.

We do need to address how somebody gets a gun. We need to talk about the capability. But we also need to talk about the intent. We need to talk about, why does somebody pick up a gun in the first place? We need to address the systemic poverty that drives gun violence. We need to address the fact that, yes, mental health does play a role in preventing gun deaths, but that role should be focused and narrowed in on the two-thirds of gun deaths that are suicides in this country. They do need more mental health funding because the top victim in this country in terms of overall gun deaths are older to middle-aged white men in rural areas with easy access to guns that have a poor health care system, that don't have mental health support, that don't - that often lack social connection because they're, you know, out there and they're not around a lot of people, you know? And they struggle to get by.

There's a lot of nuances that go along with this that I think would benefit all of us if we focused on that instead of constantly coming back to this debate where nobody's going to be moved in any way on it just by debating it over and over and over again. And I've had enough conversations with people who vehemently disagree with me, who often send me awful things in my private messages on Twitter and things like that. And I'm always able to find some level of agreement with them, you know? I say, look. I can respect that you don't agree with me, but I can't accept that there's nothing that we can do to address gun violence, right? And from that, we're able to make progress.

MOSLEY: Tell me a little bit more about your decision to join this group, to learn more about guns. You've always said that you're not anti-gun. You actually had experiences with guns younger in life. Tell us a little bit about that and then your decision to join this club in college.

HOGG: Yeah, I mean, my first time shooting guns was when I was in fourth grade because my dad was an FBI agent. And he wanted us to - he wanted me to make sure that, you know, I knew this wasn't a toy. And I - you know, I, of course, grew up like most, you know, boys in America, shooting BB guns in my backyard and stuff like that and playing with Nerf guns and things like that. But, you know, after - it just got to a certain point where I got tired of expecting - I can't keep expecting people to come to me, you know? If I'm truly dedicated to trying to end this gun violence, I need to go directly to the people who are some of the most ardent people that are against me. And what I found, surprisingly, is, you know, there's assumptions that people have on both sides. You know, people hear gun control, and they - what I've learned is that to them, it means confiscation. Even if that's not what it means, even if that's not what we're aiming for, even if that's not what I'm aiming for, to them, it means confiscation.

And it's been a really enlightening process to talk to a lot of them 'cause I've been in competitions before where I've had the head of the club come up to me and say - you know, 'cause other people recognize me in this competition against a couple other schools, and they were like, oh, my God, you know, that's that, you know, quote-unquote, "anti-gun advocate," David Hogg, you know, and he's here. And they come over to me, and they - they're kind of, like, freaked out, and they're like, what are you doing here? You know, are you here to protest us? Meanwhile, I had, you know, a 12-gauge, you know, cracked, hanging on my shoulder. But I just said I'm here because I think that there are some assumptions that you have about me and probably some that I have about you. And I don't think either of them are entirely accurate. And I'm here to figure out what we can agree on so we can move forward, end the gun violence that neither of us wants to see continue. And from that, we're able to make some progress.

MOSLEY: When you talk to gun owners looking for agreement, what kinds of things have they found agreement on?

HOGG: Well, I think one of the things that makes me the most hopeful is that we can fund more violence intervention programs, you know, that don't increase the mass incarceration rate, that focus on getting young people the resources they need to not pick up a gun in the first place, specifically working with young men who need, you know, mentorship and resources and tutoring and everything that they need to get through school. And we have agreement there. We have agreement around, you know, more mental health funding in our schools. But I do think it's important to note the shooter at my high school, you know, had tons of mental health stuff, from my understanding, right? He was - from what I know, he had a school - there were school psychologists. There were therapists. There were all these different things involved. And I don't think one more therapist would have made the difference for him.

But I do think it's worth investing in mental health to address the two-thirds of gun deaths that are suicides. And also and especially the PTSD our young people - especially our young Black and brown people in this country have from gun violence that's happening outside of their schools on a near daily basis that is not getting addressed, you know, and the trauma that that creates and how that harms them from being able to study and prevents them from being able to study as effectively as they could, how it prevents them from being able to do as good as they otherwise would on an SAT or an ACT and how it hurts them so much as - you know, when they're young people that it really hurts their long-term potential and growth, which overall, not only harms them and their community, but harms our country because we aren't enabling every American to be all that they can be because they are - our government is failing to do one of its core principles laid out in our preamble of ensuring the domestic tranquility.

MOSLEY: I'm thinking about just the sheer amount of momentum that you need to continue these efforts. You're 23 years old. So many of your classmates have stepped away from it. But at the same time, you've been able to mobilize so many.

HOGG: We're building up the next generation. Today, Sam Schwartz, who lost his cousin in the Parkland shooting, is starting a sit-in at the United States Senate to demand a vote on an assault weapons ban. I'm pretty sure Sam is 18 years old or 19. He has been doing this work since he was basically 14 years old, and he's still at it right now. And he just got the right to vote. And he's been organizing this with his mom, Gail, for - been organizing for years with her since Parkland, right? The next generation is coming up. Just the other night, March for Our Lives' first national organizing director, who I remember hiring when we - when I was a freshman in college, just was on stage as the youngest member of Congress at a Paramore concert, jumping around and telling young people about why they need to care about politics. You know, and I think the state...

MOSLEY: Is this Max Frost?

HOGG: Yes. He is the first Gen Z member of Congress, and he's not the son of, you know, a senator or some major politician or some kind of nepo baby. He is literally, you know, an adopted kid or an adopted young person that set his mind to doing this work a decade ago. After the shooting at Sandy Hook, he got involved when he was, like, 15 years old. And now he's the youngest member of Congress and the first Afro Cuban person in Congress. And he's doing amazing, right?

The movement is growing up - right? - and we're bringing more young people as we're doing that and building up the next generation, which is really what gives me hope more than anything, is that there's work happening every day. And that's part of how we're able to keep the momentum up - is I know that when I can't do this work because I'm exhausted or hopeless, which I am at times, you know, I know that there are people like Sam out there doing it. And he knows when he needs to take a step back and focus on writing music because he's going - he's focusing on, like, composition in college. He knows that that's OK because I'm out there doing the work, and it's not on any single one of us.

MOSLEY: Our guest today is March for Our Lives co-founder David Hogg. David is an active gun reform advocate and survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Fla. We'll hear more of our interview after a break. And Ken Tucker reviews new albums from singer-songwriters Rodney Crowell and Jason Isbell. I'm Tonya Mosley, and this is FRESH AIR.


MOSLEY: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Tonya Mosley, and our guest today is March for Our Lives co-founder David Hogg. David is an active gun reform advocate and a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Fla. He graduated this spring from Harvard.

In all of your speeches and talks, you bring up the ways that gun violence impacts Black and brown communities. How did you come into your understanding of the racial and social dynamics at play here, and why do you feel like it's important to talk about?

HOGG: Well, I mean, it's just the facts. I mean, Black kids are several times more likely to be a victim of gun violence than white kids. And as much as I care about preventing school shootings, if they're - you know, if we make Parkland safe but South Miami-Dade County or Jamaica, Queens, is not safe, we still haven't succeeded because there are still kids, even if they don't look like me or my sister, that are dying from this. And the way that I've learned to understand that and how to be an additive force in those spaces and not take from them is by asking questions.

You know, my - one of my first interactions with Erica Ford, who's been doing this work for over 20 years in Jamaica, Queens, in New York - it was 2018. But really, I got to know her in 2019 during my gap year, and I was in New York for another gun violence prevention-related, like, meeting. And I had a couple extra days there. So I called up Erica, and I said, you know, I don't know anything about what goes on in Jamaica, Queens, obviously, but I want to learn, and I want to be helpful. So I just said, use me as an intern. You know, you want me to get you water for, you know, some meeting that you're setting up from parents from both - on both sides of the gun, you know, the murderer's parents and the victim's parents to help reduce retaliation? You want me to help you move chairs for that or set up coffee tables or whatever you need for that? I'm more than willing to do it. You just tell me what to do because I just want to observe a veteran in the movement that has been doing this for decades to learn from you and not - you know, not tell her, obviously, what to do but ask her, what can I do for you?

And that's really how I started to learn about the process of how to build a collaborative movement and really pay respect to the veterans of that movement, the adults that have been in the movement but never got the credit that they deserved and still haven't. And I think the only people that really know how to address gun violence in their specific way in their cities and towns are the people that live in those places. And laws can help. But the reality is, you know, what's causing a lot of gun violence - the majority of gun violence is poverty and systemic racism and the inequality that stems from those things. And there is nothing that prevents gun violence like opportunity, hope and resources.

MOSLEY: When you and your Stoneman Douglas classmate Jaclyn Corin arrived at Harvard five years ago, she basically said she wanted you to stay away from her and she wanted to make friends, essentially. How did you acclimate to college life as such a visible activist? Were you able to enjoy the social aspects of what it means to be a college student?

HOGG: Not initially. I'll tell you that much. I couldn't go to parties because, like, people - when I started out as a freshman there, like, people would film me and stuff, and it would be just really weird. So when I was a freshman, I couldn't...

MOSLEY: How would you handle that? Would you just leave?

HOGG: Yeah, pretty much. I mean, I would pretty much just leave most of the time. But, you know, over time, especially after COVID, things got a lot better, I think. I mean, I wasn't nearly as - I really focused on being a college student for the most part. And, of course, I did some stuff with March for Our Lives, but not being in the spotlight as much enabled me to, like, live more of a normal life as a college student.

And, you know, I think one of the benefits of going to Harvard was that, you know, there were a lot more people who are way, way better-known than I am that go there, that are students there. And I'm able to blend in more, I guess, because of that. So that's one thing that helped. But it was not an easy adjustment my freshman year. That's for sure. But COVID really helped because it just - it made me stop and really process a lot of my PTSD and everything because I wasn't traveling constantly. So I really had to confront a lot of the stuff that I guess you could say I was running from - you know, the PTSD, the trauma - just by focusing on trying to do activism constantly. And then COVID stopped that.

MOSLEY: What were the mechanisms to help you work through that? Were you in counseling?

HOGG: Yes, I was in counseling, and I still am in counseling and therapy. And the other thing that helped me a lot was just two things. It's really time and journaling and developing a new set, like, a new community and good friends around me in college to set up a new normal, a new routine, I guess you could say. And just doing those things over time is what helped me the most to adjust to a new normal.

MOSLEY: I think I also read that you keep a journal or you keep a list - a Google list of all of the mistakes that you've made over the last few years.

HOGG: Yes.

MOSLEY: How did you come to that practice?

HOGG: Getting tired of making them, those mistakes, and wanting to have them written down for people like Sam in the future and other activists so that they can avoid some of the mistakes that I made, you know, the top one of which that comes to my mind is you can't make everybody happy. Just being able to point out the reasons why something is wrong, whether it's a law, you know, a system of government or, you know, something in an organization or something like that is wrong is not enough. Like, you need people that actually know how to address it because it's easy to point out the flaws in something. It's much harder to make something better. And I think that's really one of my top lessons that I've learned, along with knowing that it's not all on you. You know, movements are collective actions of people and individuals. All they are is just people. And if those people and those individuals are not taking care of themselves, the movement isn't taking care of itself.

And the last one that I would say that I can think of off the top of my head is the importance of having fun. And I know that sounds really weird considering how dark this stuff is, but what I mean by that is, you know, for a long time in March for Our Lives, we - with the student activists and everything, we - at least I know that I didn't feel like I had permission to smile, to have fun because there would be people, conservative activists, for example, who would take photos of us, you know, being put in front of cameras and being told to smile, you know, because we were, like, at a dinner or something and saying - you know, Photoshopping that and saying things like, oh, the face you make when your classmates are dead, and awful things like that. And I think that's one of the most evil, sinister things that happened after everything, you know, just to the young people that spoke out - is that we were told it wasn't acceptable for us to be happy in any way.

And I think it took a lot of time to understand, you know, in what ways, you know, that it is OK to be happy, that it is okay to smile and laugh and have fun even as we are doing this work around something that is so dark and serious because if we're just constantly sad, the activists turn on each other. We started to blame each other. And we come to associate each other with the trauma that we've gone through.

And as an example of this, like, last summer, after - sorry, I've never told this story publicly, I don't think. But after Uvalde, some of the parents from Uvalde asked some of the students from March for Our Lives, like Sam Fuentes, who survived the shooting and literally has shrapnel in her to this day, to come out and speak to the parents. And after we marched around that day and spoke to the parents and everything, obviously, like, that was a lot, not only physically because of the heat and because it was, like, 100 degrees that day and we marched, like, what felt like a million miles around Uvalde, you know, demanding accountability from the police department and things like that but also just mentally because of, like, how dark it is that, like, these parents have literally experienced the worst thing that any parent could imagine.

And what we did that night is I said - after we finished that march and everything, I was like, OK, today was, like, a hard day, obviously, like, just experiencing this because we're also - we got our own forms of trauma and PTSD, right? And I said, OK, what we're going to do is we are going to drive out into the desert, like, 30 minutes or whatever. And we're going to go stargazing and just not talk about any of this and just breathe and look at the stars. So that's what we did. We just went out there for, like, two hours and just looked up, like, at the stars in South Texas in the middle of the summer and just talked.

And I think moments like that scene - I used to tell myself that, like, things like that would be really dumb to do because they are so unnecessary and not efficient. But I realized that those moments are some of the most important in the work because we have to sustain ourselves and make sure that we aren't just constantly exposing ourselves to the horrors of gun violence and its aftermath. We can have friends in this work, you know? We can make a movement that is joyful and hopeful and not just sad and depressed constantly.

MOSLEY: Let's take a short break. If you're just joining us, we're talking to March for Our Lives co-founder David Hogg. Hogg is a gun reform advocate and a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre in Parkland, Fla. We'll be back in a few moments. This is FRESH AIR.


MOSLEY: This is FRESH AIR. And today we're talking to David Hogg, gun reform activist and co-founder of March for Our Lives, a youth-led initiative to eliminate the epidemic of gun violence.

Every time you speak, you are threatened. You receive DMs and hate messages. Can you tell us about some of the threats and confrontations that not only you, but your family have had to deal with?

HOGG: Well, for one, I've - my house got swatted. You know, somebody called the police and said that they had killed my entire family. I mean, forgive me if I'm wrong about this. It was a couple of years ago. And I try not to think about it. But from my understanding, they basically said that they had killed my entire family and were demanding a ransom, holding me at gunpoint or something like that. And, you know, I wasn't home at the time, and neither was my family, thank God. But I was actually in D.C. because there was an award ceremony that I was going to with my family.

And I got a call from the sheriff's department in Broward County saying, you know, oh, are you being held up and your family has, like, basically been killed by some guy that's demanding some amount of money or something like that? And I'm like, no, I'm in a Krispy Kreme donuts place with my - looking at my family right now. What are you talking about? And then we look at the news, and my house is on the news from a news helicopter. And there are guys down the street pointing guns at my front door.

That's one example. My mom received a death threat that said - I don't think I can say this on NPR, but an expletive with the - you know, imagine expletive with the NRA, and you'll be DOA. And we used the law that we passed after Parkland to disarm that individual, who lived - I think it was less than 30 minutes away from us. And it may have prevented me from having to bury my own mom, you know? So people can say all they want that, you know, criminals don't obey laws. Fine. Obviously, by definition, they don't.

But the reality is we do have laws still. And there's a reason for that. And it's because they can work when they're enforced properly. And that same law since Parkland that we passed, that extremist protection order law that enables you to disarm somebody that is a risk to themselves or others through a court order, with due process and a right to counsel, has been used over 6,000 times in Florida alone since Parkland. And that was passed by a Republican, a Republican state legislature, mind you. And it hasn't been repealed by Ron DeSantis, and neither has the raising the age to 21 to buy a gun either.

MOSLEY: In this effort of bipartisanship, these threats, though, that you are experiencing, it's still very much along party lines. You had an encounter in March of 2019 with Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is known for promoting conspiracy theories. This interaction was during a trip to Washington, D.C. And in the video of this encounter, which resurfaced in 2021, Greene is following you and yelling at you. Let's listen to the clip.


MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: David, why are you supporting the red flag laws? If there had been - if Scot Peterson, the resource officer at Parkland, had done his job, then Nikolas Cruz wouldn't have killed anybody in your high school or at least protected them. Why are you supporting red flag gun laws that attack our Second Amendment rights? And why are you using kids to get - as a barrier? Do you not know how to defend your stance? So I'm walking. He's got nothing to say - sad.

MOSLEY: That was Marjorie Taylor Greene following you, David, during a visit to the Capitol in 2019. She was saying, why do you support red flag laws? And she went on to say that if the school resource officer onsite had done his job, there wouldn't have been a tragedy. And she went on to question how you're actually funded. You actually decided to stay silent. Is that hard to do - to keep quiet? Is that a strategy when you are experiencing these kind of interactions?

HOGG: Well, mind you, that, when - what you didn't hear in that clip was her talking about how she has a concealed carry permit. I didn't know if she was armed or not, which was one of the main reasons I was not interacting with her because I was with my staff, and I was focused on deescalating the situation and not engaging with somebody who was potentially armed. And in that moment, it's not hard to not engage because I am more than anything concerned about the safety of my staff. That is my top priority. I do not care what she says. I'm not going to let my staff pay the ultimate price for me confronting some person that I frankly thought was a crazy person 'cause there are plenty of conspiracy theorists out there who don't think the shooting at my school happened, who, Marjorie Taylor Greene, by the way, was one of. That - she said, at least from the best of my recollection, that the shooting in Parkland didn't happen, that we're, you know, basically a conspiracy. And I'm not going to engage with somebody like that. You know, and also, I hate the school resource officer. I think that he should be in prison for the rest of his life. But I'm not going to engage with somebody like that who is potentially a threat to my staff. Mind you, I was 18 years old when that was recorded, at least last I checked.

MOSLEY: Yeah, it was several years ago. Speaking of the school resource officer, jury selection for his trial, Scot Peterson, actually began last week. And he's accused of failing to follow his training by staying outside of your high school during the shooting for, I think, a full 45 minutes. He's pleaded not guilty to 11 charges, including seven counts of felony child neglect. Have you been following the trial?

HOGG: No, not very closely because I don't like to think about it. And it's not something - even if he went to prison for the rest of his life, it's not going to bring my classmates back. Although I do think he should be held accountable, I would rather focus on preventing these things in the future and also acknowledging the fact that, you know, we've put thousands of cops in schools since Columbine. From my understanding, there's basically been one instance, maybe two, where they've even potentially, arguably stopped anything. You know, if our only solution of stopping gun violence at our schools is once a shooter is in the parking lot, then potentially being able to do something, people are already going to die, almost certainly. The vast majority of kids who die from gun violence die outside of school.

You know, just in the past year in Philly, over a hundred public school kids have been killed or injured. And that's predominantly outside of school, predominantly kids of color who don't get the same attention that kids in Parkland get because our schools for the - is largely white, not to mention the fact that these school resource officers, to many white parents, might seem like they're making their kids safer. But I know many Black and brown students that I work with will not feel safer having a cop there because there, the cop could be the threat.

MOSLEY: You've graduated from college. You are headed out into the world. What are your plans next? What is the job prospect that you're looking at?

HOGG: I am excited to announce that in a couple of weeks. But until then, it's under wraps.

MOSLEY: Does it involve the type of work that you're doing now?

HOGG: Yes.

MOSLEY: David Hogg, thank you for this conversation.

HOGG: Of course.

MOSLEY: David Hogg is co-founder of March for Our Lives, a youth-led initiative to eliminate the epidemic of gun violence. Coming up, Ken Tucker reviews new albums from singer-songwriters Rodney Crowell and Jason Isbell. This is FRESH AIR.


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