A backlash from gun rights advocates and conspiracy theorists hasn’t cowed these activists.
The teenage survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, have emerged as the next leaders in the gun control debate. They are fighting for change and vowing “never again.” They’ve also been unrestrained, and at times brutally direct, in calling out hypocrisy and challenging their critics.
They messed with the wrong school.— Cameron Kasky (@cameron_kasky) February 24, 2018
Douglas is a school filled with thousands of leaders.
Leaders who know that despite what happened, we’re lucky we go to Douglas.
Leaders who take action the right way.
Leaders who will rebuild the world that failed us.#MarchForOurLives
Criticism and conspiracy theories emerged almost as soon as the survivors of the spoke out in the wake of the tragedy. They were crisis actors; they were coached, left-wing puppets; they were just kids.
The backlash hasn’t cowed these activists. They’ve fought back, often on social media, and doubled down on their message: make the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — their high school — the last.
“They’re either misunderstanding our movement or they’re just complaining and they’re not doing anything — which, ultimately, a couple of complaints aren’t going to hurt the cause,” Delaney Tarr, a high school senior turned activist, told Vox last week. “It’s an inevitability when you are doing something this big and this controversial for so many people. Even though it shouldn’t be controversial.”
The “crisis actor” attacks
Conspiracy theories started bubbling up in the darker corners of the internet that these teenagers were “crisis actors,” people hired to perpetuate an anti-gun agenda, not student survivors. The conspiracy mongering followed the playbook of previous mass shootings, most notably the so-called Sandy Hook “truthers.”
David Hogg, a 17-year-old high school senior and one of the most vocal activists, became a particular target. The activists had some fun rebutting that attack:
@davidhogg111 is smart, funny, and diligent, but my favorite thing about him is undoubtedly that he’s actually a 26 year-old felon from California.— Cameron Kasky (@cameron_kasky) February 21, 2018
But they also have called out those in power. Lauren Hogg, David’s younger sister who survived the shooting and lost friends in the attack, asked Melania Trump (who has taken on the cause of preventing cyberbullying) to stand up to those harassing her family. The attackers have found some sympathy from Donald Trump Jr., who “liked” a conspiracy-laden tweet about Hogg.
&created a safe space for people all over the world to call me and my family horrific things that constantly re-victimizes us and our community. I’m 14 I should never have had to deal with any of this and even though I thought it couldn’t get worse it has because of your family.— Lauren Hogg (@lauren_hoggs) February 23, 2018
Pushing back on the NRA ...
Parkland students have called out the NRA, and the politicians who accept funding from the group. Starting last week, corporations began to cut ties and end discounts offered to members. The NRA tweeted that said it “will neither scare nor distract one single NRA member from our mission to stand and defend the individual freedoms that have always made America the greatest nation in the world.”
The survivors responded to that and other pushback from the NRA and its members:
Since when does making it harder to purchase a gun halt you from getting your monthly magazines and going to gun shows?? We’re not trying to eradicate the NRA we’re just trying to keep children safe. Do you not like that? https://t.co/26aPmIC0HN— Adam Alhanti (@AAlhanti) February 26, 2018
You’re missing the point. We don’t want to take away your gun rights, we just want to prevent Americans from owning assault weapons and to tighten the methods at which a person can purchase a firearm. Sorry, @NRA, the children are winning. Thoughts and prayers. https://t.co/ARLaqjSuMM— Jaclyn Corin (@JaclynCorin) February 25, 2018
Other activists blasted NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre’s speech at CPAC, which accused “opportunists” of exploiting “tragedy for political gain.”
Noticed @waynelapierrejr that when you mentioned the Declaration of Independence, you talked a lot about liberties and the pursuit of happiness - but never about Life. Do we not deserve the Right To Live anymore? Can we take this as a Protect-Guns-not-Students message?— Emma González (@Emma4Change) February 22, 2018
... And the politicians who take donations from the NRA
At a CNN town hall last week, Cameron Kasky, a Parkland student activist, challenged Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to stop taking donations from the NRA. Rubio replied that “people buy into my agenda, and I do support the Second Amendment.”
One student activist protested — and didn’t back down amid criticism:
We should change the names of AR-15s to “Marco Rubio” because they are so easy to buy.— Sarah Chadwick// #NEVERAGAIN (@sarahchad_) February 23, 2018