This weekend brings another March For Our Lives

As students protest gun violence, a senator says ‘miracles sometimes happen’

“I’m tired of being here … doing the job of what our senators should be doing right now,” says Parkland survivor David Hogg ahead of this weekend’s march against violence. Above, he meets former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at a Tuesday event. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
“I’m tired of being here … doing the job of what our senators should be doing right now,” says Parkland survivor David Hogg ahead of this weekend’s march against violence. Above, he meets former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at a Tuesday event. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted June 9, 2022 at 7:41pm

David Hogg is exhausted.

The survivor of a 2018 massacre at his high school was back on Capitol Hill this week after recent mass shootings left dozens dead around the country. Hogg, who’s become a well-known face for changing gun laws, said he’s spending his summer break meeting with lawmakers and speaking at Saturday’s march against gun violence. 

“I’m tired of being here. I want to be a college student,” he said. “I want to go out and have fun and do my job and be a young person that’s enjoying my life and not having to be doing the job of what our senators should be doing right now.”

Over the past few days, the Harvard student met with lawmakers and attended an event with former Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was gravely injured during a 2011 shooting.

On Saturday, he will speak at the March For Our Lives protest in Washington, which was rapidly organized after 19 children and two teachers were murdered on May 24 at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. 

Hogg and others founded March For Our Lives in 2018 after a gunman tore through his high school in Parkland, Fla., apparently using a legally purchased Smith & Wesson M&P 15. The group staged a massive protest that year, and organizers are hoping Saturday’s crowds will be even bigger. Their permit application with the National Park Service says they expect 50,000 people in Washington, with local marches in other cities. 

At least one member of Congress is set to speak at the main event in the nation’s capital, which begins at noon near the Washington Monument. Democratic Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri will appear, joining young people like Parkland survivor and group cofounder X González.

Since entering the spotlight, Hogg said it’s hard to describe the backlash he’s faced as a student calling for new gun laws. He and his family have received threats of violence, and adults twice his age have publicly harassed him or spread conspiracy theories suggesting the shooting at his high school was a hoax. He has been a favorite target of Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who once called him an “idiot.”

“People ask me a lot of the time, ‘How do you stay hopeful?’ and the answer is, I don’t. I would say 80 percent of the time I’m not hopeful,” he said. “But, I don’t know what it is, sometimes you just know when things are changing, and now is that time.”

He cited a recent protest in Texas in front of one of GOP Sen. John Cornyn’s offices as an example. 

“Every single time I’ve ever protested in Texas … I’ve been counterprotested by armed men with AR-15s. At least probably a couple dozen, at minimum, every time,” he said. “Outside of John Cornyn’s office, there was not a single one.”

While some might not see fewer armed counterprotesters as a clear sign of progress, Hogg senses an opening. Whether that translates into legislative action remains to be seen. 

Hogg said lawmakers need to hear disturbing stories like the ones shared Wednesday in front of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Uvalde pediatrician Roy Guerrero described how two children shot at school came into his hospital with flesh so pulverized by bullets “the only clue as to their identities were the blood-spattered cartoon clothes still clinging to them.”

House Democrats voted later that day to pass a gun control package, including provisions to raise the age for purchasing certain rifles to 21 and limit bullet magazine sizes. Just five Republicans joined them.

The fate of gun legislation now resides with a small group of senators led by Cornyn and Connecticut Democratic Sen. Christopher S. Murphy

On Thursday, Murphy put it bluntly. “This is the hardest issue we work on. It will be a miracle if we get a framework agreement, never mind a final bill,” he said. “But miracles sometimes happen.”

Hogg has no illusions about the Senate, but he thinks public support is building behind proposals to implement new background checks and red flag laws, combat suicides that account for about half of gun deaths, and raise the minimum age to purchase some firearms.

“It doesn’t mean we’re going to change the world overnight,” he said. “Kids are still going to die tomorrow from gun violence, because these institutions are built to purposely function slowly.” 

Recently the voracious Twitter user has shared statements and letters from people who had been against changes to gun laws, but have now come around. 

And Congress isn’t everything. After leaving his meeting with Murphy on Wednesday, Hogg stood rooted to the spot in the Hart Senate Office Building under the hulking “Mountains and Clouds” sculpture designed by Alexander Calder.

“I think a lot about how history is the product of chance and circumstance,” he said. “I think chance is on our side here — I don’t know exactly why.”

As reporters lined up with their questions, another clump of people approached him — a group of teachers who had come to the Hill from Florida for a different meeting. “We’re on your side,” one said, leading Hogg to respond with an impassioned speech about action at the state level.

“Go to Tallahassee and show up there every year,” he told them. They stopped to take a photo, and he immediately tweeted it.