There was a time when David Hogg dreamed of becoming a journalist or an aerospace engineer. A time when he only faced the worries of an ordinary teenager, schooled in Parkland, Florida. He was 17 in February 2018, the day a killer, barely older, entered the school with an assault rifle and killed fourteen students and three adults. This tragedy changed his life forever. He also rushed him into the public arena. A recognized gun control activist within the March for Our Lives movement, David Hogg will be at the forefront of protesters in Washington on Saturday, June 11, during an exceptional day of mobilization in all the countries. It follows the killing of Uvalde (Texas), in which nineteen children perished.
Before this new massacre in Texas, David Hogg had deleted Twitter from his phone to focus on his exams. He reconnected immediately. ” I had no choice. A student at Harvard, he is the figurehead of March for Our Lives, initiated after Parkland. At the time, hundreds of thousands of people had flocked to the American capital. Since then, the young man has sought to overcome the incandescent polarization on weapons, which opposes Republicans and Democrats. He wants to believe that an opening is finally emerging to move forward. “The movement is stronger than ever,” he said in a telephone interview with Le Monde. It’s been decades since we’ve been this close to changing something. We must choose hope and action rather than just thoughts and prayers. »
On Twitter, where he has more than 1.1 million subscribers, David Hogg challenges, denounces and encourages, tirelessly, as June 11 approaches. He traveled to Houston, three days after Uvalde, to protest outside the building where the convention of the National Rifle Association (NRA), the main arms lobby, was held. “It was unheard of,” he said. It was 33°C, and the singing was so loud it hurt my ears. Inside they had air conditioning and a former president [Donald Trump] as a guest, but there seemed to be only a few hundred of them. I really feel like this time things are different. »
45,000 gunshot deaths in 2020
Self-conviction, communication, classic balance of power? David Hogg has had recent contact with many elected members of Congress. He hopes the Democrats will show a united front and that ten Republicans will come out of their usual trenches to join them, even if the consensus is on minimal bases. A bipartisan group of nine senators was formed to work on two texts. One called the “red flag” would allow the temporary seizure by court order of weapons belonging to a person deemed unstable and dangerous; the other would strengthen background checks for any potential firearm buyer. But the Republicans sanctify the second amendment of the Constitution, and denounce any legislation on the weapons like an attack on this freedom. No question, therefore, of banning the sale of the AR-15, the semi-automatic assault rifle used in all mass killings.
“I will not let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” pleads David Hogg, aware of this resistance. Nothing we could do would completely eradicate gun violence, but we can reduce it. Likewise, the young activist doesn’t reject Republican arguments about the failure of the mental health system, but it “should not be used as a scapegoat for racist mass murderers.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shooting homicides increased by 35% in the first year of the pandemic, in 2020, resulting in the death of 45,000 people, half of which were suicides. An unprecedented figure, which speaks as much about the psychological ravages of confinement as too easy access to weapons, the sales of which are exploding.
The son of a former FBI agent – with Republican leanings – and a leftist teacher, David Hogg knows the importance of a well-considered argument. Committed against arms the day after the shooting at his school, he suffered attacks from conservative circles, which ranged from mockery about his school results to rumors about his absence from the establishment at the time of the events. Laura Ingraham, the famous Fox News anchor, was the spokesperson. The young man also had to “armor himself” against threats, without deviating from his course. A race in the figurative and road sense, since David Hogg had taken part in a major bus tour across the country, for two months, to raise awareness of the cause.
The example of tobacco control
The race continues, time is running out. On March 24, March for Our Lives activists deployed more than a thousand body bags on the National Mall plaza in Washington, D.C., in remembrance of the victims of the mass shootings. On June 6, the Gun violence Archive site, which lists all forms of gun violence, posted 246 shootings of this nature since the beginning of the year, confirming a clear increase in 2020 and 2021. The criterion used by the site for this type of crime is the existence of at least four victims, injured or killed. Since the Uvalde massacre, more than thirty cases have already taken place in the country.
David Hogg takes the example of tobacco control, pointing out that cigarettes have not been banned, but the public has been educated. He dreams of a great transpartisan movement, bringing together unions, business leaders, arms users, survivors of the killings, and which would be able to weigh permanently in the assemblies of each state. This, he says, is where the NRA’s great strength lies, in its methodical lobbying outside of Washington. “We could have a 50% reduction in gunshot deaths in ten years,” the young man wants to believe.
At Harvard, David Hogg passionately studies the history of American social movements. He says he is particularly fascinated by the efficiency and mobilization capacities of the conservative base, which has succeeded in imposing the views of a minority. According to opinion studies, the majority is elsewhere, but it is not listened to. A CBS News-YouGov poll, released June 6, showed that 81% of Americans support background checks for any gun buyer, 72% support so-called “red flag” laws, and 62% call for a ban on the AR-15 semi-automatic weapon.