Editor’s note: Tam O’Shanter reporter Skylar Rudberg recently spoke with high school student and activist David Hogg of Parkland, Florida about the issue of school violence.
David Hogg entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL the morning of Feb. 14 and left that day forever changed.
“Before Feb. 14, I wasn’t sure if love existed or what it truly was. After that day, I was sure it did,” said the nationally-known and outspoken David Hogg, a 17-year-old student (now 18) and survivor of the shooting. He recently shared his experience, strength, hope, and vision for the future with the Southmoreland Tam O’Shanter.
Much has been said of Stonewall Douglas High School in recent months and the movement that has come from the shooting that killed 17 people and wounded 17 more.
Countless journalists, news stories, articles, television interviews, features and national media attention, all on of community of 30,000. Much has been said of the survivors. They’ve been called brave, they’ve been called heroes, they’ve been called fake government actors. But after all of the numerous things that has been said of them, what do they have to say?
On the morning of Feb. 14, Nikolas Cruz entered Marjory Stonewall Douglas High School, where he opened fire on his former classmates. Cruz used an AR-15 and that weapon, like all military style weapons, has become the target of the anti-gun violence movement whose philosophy has clashed with the stance of the National Rifle Association.
After the dust settled and healing began, survivors together created the group Never Again MSD, which advocates for different layers of gun control reform. Many students joined the organization, including David Hogg, among other students.
The main goal of the organization is to “help save lives and to lower the amount of gun related deaths as much as possible” while also “not infringing on anyone’s second amendment rights,” according to Hogg.
But as Southmoreland High School sophomore Olivia Robertucci stated in a forum on guns and school safety held recently at Westmoreland County Community College in Youngwood, the second amendment “was not made for current guns.”
“The goal of our activism is to try to create change together and to support the community with love and support,” Hogg, said in summing up the purpose of his group, called the “Never Again” movement.
As a result of the efforts of the movement, the Marjory Stonewall Douglas High School Public Safety Act was voted into law by the Florida state legislature in March, a month after the Parkland shooting. The bill raised the minimum legal age to buy any firearm to 21, created new waiting times and background checks, armed some teachers and hired new security guards in schools, banned bump stocks, and barred certain court-decidedly mentally unstable individuals and criminals with a violent history from purchasing firearms in Florida.
According to John Cassidy’s article in The New Yorker, the new legislation was “a direct response to the Never Again MSD movement,” and Florida governor Rick Scott said that the students have “made (their) voices heard.”
Hogg said he has suffered viscious attacks in the media, as well as praise. From the now famous comment by Fox News host Laura Ingraham attacking him about being “rejected” for colleges he applied for, to being bashed by singer/NRA member Ted Nugent, to the far-right wing Alex Jones calling him and his fellow students “Nazis,” and finally being threatened by (now former) Missouri radio host Jamie Allman “to sodomize him with a hot poker,” Hogg has become a lightning rod for controversy.
Despite that Hogg has been attacked excessively, he also has been praised. NBC political analyst Steve Schmidt has said that Hogg is “not scared of the NRA” and “not intimidated” by those who would attack him. Hogg has appeared on several large news media companies, such as CNN, has been on the cover of Time magazine with fellow students, as well as being interviewed by numerous journalists publicized in a myriad of media stories.
Through it all, Hogg continues to fight for gun restrictions despite all of the opposition and obstacles in his path. When feeling discouraged, he relies on the “love and support of all the people in the movement” and he remembers “all the people I’ve met” (he has met with survivors of the Columbine massacre of April 20, 1999 and other survivors of school shootings). His parents, mother Rebecca Boldrick and father Kevin Hogg, stated dismay at the attacks on their son, saying they were “disgusted” by it. But Hogg expressed that he “doesn’t care how others view” him.
Hogg has continued to live his life “as normal and as best” that he can. He’s still the “nerdy space geek” he was before and feels like “a normal high schooler.” When asked about his new life in the limelight, he says, “While I’m frequently in the news, I still have to worry about studying for an AP Psychology test.” He loves rap music, R&B, and alternative rock. His favorite bands or artists are U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kendrick Lamar, and Coldplay. He loves the book The Glass Castle. Other than that, he loves taking pictures “of all types” and volunteering in the community in numerous ways.
Hogg is normal teenager who has lived experiences that are anything but normal. But in the end, he wants to see changes that he believes are now in the hands of his generation. He said he also hopes to address the issues of economic inequality in his community and beyond, the difference of the level of education available to suburban versus inner city schools.
Most of all, David Hogg said he wants to see an end to school violence and will pursue that goal “with a passion.”