Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg heads to Capitol Hill after bittersweet graduation
Hogg plans to spend his entire summer traveling and boosting voter turnout.
While most of his peers will be having fun soaking in their final summer before college, David Hogg will be traveling across the country to call for change, lobbying Washington, D.C. in an effort to protect students from mass shootings like the one he survived this year.
After the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and staff teachers were killed, Hogg rose to prominence as one of the first students to speak out survivors in the spotlight.
Hogg said he leaped into adulthood in the wake of the Feb. 14 attack, helping to force forcing a national conversation about gun control. But Now, just hours after receiving his high school diploma on Sunday, Hogg said he will continue to focus on common sense gun regulations and encourage young people to vote. but also incorporate broader goals looking to cast his net beyond gun control.
“I'm gonna be taking a gap year and not going to college for a year so that I can continue to work on these issues and promote sensible legislation, for example -- not just around gun control, but around youth voter turnout,” Hogg said in an interview with ABC News’ "Nightline." “I think the fact that I was -- that I got my draft card on my 18th birthday here -- but the federal government can't register me to vote is ridiculous.
“There's a reason why the youth of America are affected by so many issues that don't affect other kids in more developed countries and it's because we do not vote,” he added.
He said he'll be taking his cause directly to the lawmakers in Washington before setting out on a 60-day road trip called “March for Our Lives: Road to Change” that will take him from on more than 50 stops nationwide, from Florida to Alaska.
"Over the summer I'm also gonna be going to D.C. a lot to lobby. And I'm gonna be traveling way more than I ever have in my life -- to try to fix this issue," he said.
In the weeks and months after the February 14th shooting, Hogg says he worked to make sure the story didn’t fade from the national spotlight. Hogg was one of the first students to speak out on-camera after a former classmate allegedly stormed into his school and opened fire with an AR-15-style rifle.
“I don't think I really ever saw myself as an advocate before,” said Hogg, whose aspirations had included following his father’s footsteps in the FBI or a career in aerospace research. “I felt a necessity to speak out -- as kind of the main architect behind the messaging of #NeverAgain because I was really one of the first people to do that and I was the first person, really, on camera from our school at the time,” he said. “I feel like a lot of the time the only story that came out was, 'These kids they're only for gun control,' but that's not the case” he said, noting their advocacy for mental health and behavioral intervention programs. . ... We're for a lot of things.”
He didn’t know any of the victims personally, but he said their deaths thrust him into activism and forced him to think about complex issues that had never crossed his mind before.
Hogg says he wants people to focus less on the politics of gun reform and more on saving young lives.
“Think about the families that are out there right now who have never thought about gun control, never thought about mental health care funding, never thought about behavioral intervention programs or the NRA or any of this stuff, but will have to tomorrow,” he said, referring to the likelihood of another deadly school shooting. “Because tomorrow, they don't know it yet, but their kid's going to die and they're gonna have to think about that for the rest of their lives.”
Hogg stirred controversy recently with his protests and boycotts against corporations tied to the National Rifle Association (NRA). Hogg led a protest against Publix last month over their donations to Florida governor candidate Adam Putnam, an outspoken supporter of the NRA. Publix also made donations to Stoneman Douglas after the shooting.
“That was like a huge kick to the stomach because you [Publix] say that you support us and then you go out and give [money to] a guy that's literally an NRA sellout,” Hogg said. “I decided to do the ‘die-in’ at Publix because I was tired of the complacency again and again.
“We need to hold corporate America responsible just like we hold our politicians responsible,” he added.The grocery company vowed to suspend all political contributions in the wake of the protests, which Hogg called “somewhat of a win,” but he wants more.
“I ask Publix to take the money back. If they can't take it out of Adam Putnam's campaign, match that amount and donate it to the Stoneman Douglas Victims' Fund,” he said. “When Publix supports an NRA sellout, they are absolutely complicit in those deaths.”
Hogg says he plans to narrow the political divide around gun control through activism.
Now, Hogg said he’s looking to focus on the aspects of gun violence that affect everyone.
Hogg says he sees gun violence as a bipartisan issue and hopes to work across the aisle to enact change. “So long as we face this divisiveness in Washington and states and even at the local level amongst citizens, we're never gonna solve this by working against each other. So why not work with each other? We all wanna save children's lives,” Hogg said. “Bullets don't discriminate. They don't care if you're a Republican or if you're a Democrat… We have to make sure that the people that are in power that refuse to take action on this are no longer in power.”
“The best way to prevent so many bad things is well-educated voting,” he added.
“What affects everybody is a lack of voter turnout, resulting in these people getting elected that don't wanna work to promote any common-sense gun legislation,” Hogg said.
He plans to spend his entire summer traveling, boosting voter turnout among young people and focusing on issues he believes all Americans can identify with.
“I think we're going to, like, 75 stops over the summer, just constantly going to districts with youth that are affected by this, visiting people that are affected by this and getting youth out to vote,” he said about the bus trip, “March for Our Lives: Road to Change”.