It’s been just over four months since the tragic school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In a very short amount of time, student leaders have risen up as voices of a new movement. They’ve led marches, held rallies, and staged die-ins. They’ve given countless interviews on TV and challenged politicians and lawmakers directly. (Remember the CNN Town Hall with Dana Loesch and Marco Rubio?) And they’ve tweeted nonstop, using their new platform and following to remind us that America needs common-sense gun laws that respect both our right to own guns and our right to live.
Two of the biggest voices behind the March for Our Lives movement are Stoneman Douglas High School students David Hogg (class of ’18) and Lauren Hogg (class of ’21). Not only have they been incredibly busy giving interviews and organizing events (oh, and finishing the 2017-18 school year — NBD), but they’ve also written a book. Together, the brother/sister duo penned #NeverAgain: A New Generation Draws the Line, which is out now.
In #NeverAgain, David and Lauren take turns narrating to give you a broader picture of their experiences in the last four months. It’s part background on their lives before the shooting, part first-hand account of what happened during the shooting, part reflection on how they turned their grief into action, part manifesto for our times, and part memorial to some of those we’ve lost to gun violence since the Columbine shooting in 1999.
I spoke with David and Lauren about #NeverAgain and how you can get involved today.
HelloGiggles: I didn’t realize until reading #NeverAgain that students do code red active shooter drills in school. That immediately stopped me in my tracks. For reference, I graduated from high school in 2006.
Lauren Hogg: I was born after Columbine. I wake up every morning and I see these things on TV. I see these mass murders. I see inner-city gun violence shown on the news, but not as much as it should be. It’s something we shouldn’t have to deal with. I think after what happened to us, I finally realized that when we have these code red active shooter drills at school every other week, this is something we shouldn’t be accustomed to. This is something we shouldn’t have to deal with.
When I sat in the corner of my classrooms when we had these drills, I never really thought about why I’m sitting in that corner. I never really thought that they’re preparing us for somebody to come onto my campus and to murder us. And we would be laughing during those drills. I think that really shows the point in our country that we’re at — the fact that we’ve become so desensitized to what the meaning is behind these drills. We’ve begun to think it’s normal and to laugh at it. I think that’s something that’s really disturbing that I never really realized before. I think that’s something that’s really important in #NeverAgain — we’re trying to show people that this shouldn’t be normal. This shouldn’t be something we have to be a part of. This especially shouldn’t be something that we have to deal with as kindergarteners and teenagers. It’s just appalling.
HG: Has anyone ever told you that you’ve changed the way they think about gun control?
David Hogg: Yep. Many times. The people that argue against us have to be willing to speak with us. You have to be able to talk to each other not as Democrats or Republicans, or even Americans, but as human beings. You have to understand that a lot of people suffer and have to to work together to make sure that we are able to end that suffering. If we don’t work together, we never will.
HG: How do you keep finding the patience to talk to the people who so adamantly disagree with you?
DH: In the book, I talk about the love and compassion that Emma [González] and the different members of our [March for Our Lives] group taught me — that’s how I find the patience to keep doing it. Because so many people, regardless of their opinion, are just like Emma, are just like Ryan [Deitsch], are just like Delaney [Tarr], are just like Jackie [Coren], are just like Cameron [Kasky]. They are people that care about other people and care about those around them, even if they have different opinions. My favorite thing to do is talk to people who disagree with me but are willing to have a conversation. Especially when they come over to me extremely angry and I’m able to just talk to them and have a responsible conversation with them. But the first thing that we need for that to happen is people be willing to talk.
HG: I enjoyed reading about the classes you took and the activities you did at Stoneman Douglas, like Civics and Congressional Debate. How can people become more socially conscious if they aren’t exposed to the same classes and opportunities you have in school?
LH: I think the main thing, if you don’t have access to these classes at your school, is to educate yourself if you have the ability to. Go online if you have access. Go on YouTube. Look up videos on civics. Look up videos on the civil rights movement. I think the main thing is you have to educate yourself. Some of the best, most powerful people who have caused the most positive change in the world have been people who’ve come from places where they don’t necessarily have this much access to information, but they educate themselves. They go to libraries, they read. That’s something everybody can do.
DH: What the book really teaches is specifically about empathy. That’s what I hope a lot of people learn. We’re still just kids. What I hope is that the kids of America are able to turn back and not have to worry about these things and it happening to them. That’s where we were, and then it happened to us. I hope people are better able to put themselves in other people’s shoes after reading this book.
HG: For anyone grieving after a shooting, but who might not have access to counseling resources, how do you recommend they get through it?
DH: Find support in your friends. The most therapeutic thing for me is being around the people that have been affected by it in different ways. Realizing that even though we experience gun violence differently, it’s important that we listen to each other and that we have a mutual understanding that even though we’re affected differently by it, gun violence anywhere is still gun violence. That’s one thing that unites us and I’ve found to be therapeutic — our activism and our change. I hope from this book, people get inspired to affect positive change in their community so that it’s not them or anybody they know that’s affected by gun violence. Because it can, and it will be, if each and every one of us doesn’t take action.
HG: The end of the book includes beautiful and personal tributes to some of those who have been killed in gun violence since Columbine in 1999. It really drives home the point that they are real people and not statistics.
DH: My biggest question is whether or not we can actually make our politicians right now realize that these are people. I hope that some of our politicians are able to read our book and actually see the victims of gun violence as human beings and not just numbers that will cost them a couple points in an upcoming election. Because that’s what they are at this point. Politicians need to learn how to be empathetic to these people and understand the kids that died here are just like the kids you and I were. They need to understand that if they have kids, they should be just as concerned. Every day, they should be asking themselves, “What am I doing to end this epidemic?” So it doesn’t affect them or their kids.
HG: You’re donating the proceeds of #NeverAgain to a few different organizations. Who are you supporting?
DH: We’re giving some of the proceeds to March for Our Lives, some of the proceeds to Change the Ref, which is an organization started by Manuel Oliver, he’s Joaquin’s dad — Joaquin died in the shooting. And we’re also giving to Chicago Strong, which is a coalition of different charities on the South Side of Chicago that are student-led and student-organized to end gun violence.
HG: What’s something that people can do today, right now, to get involved?
DH: The best thing they can do right now, if they want to join our March for Our Lives: Road to Change, is text ‘CHANGE’ to 97779. That will get them involved in our organization. We’re touring the country to their town on the Road to Change, and they can volunteer. The second thing is, people can volunteer on campaigns. Even if you can’t vote, go knock on your neighbors’ doors and ask them to vote on these policies. Ask them to vote for people that will vote for common-sense gun laws that respect peoples’ ability and their Second Amendment right to bear arms, but also respect our right to live.
#NeverAgain: A New Generation Draws the Line is now available wherever books are sold.