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Voting for Gun Control: March For Our Lives Group Has a Federal Plan for That

By Stephen Sawchuk — August 21, 2019 3 min read
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The March for Our Lives, the group founded by students in Parkland, Fla., after the slaughter last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has issued a wide-ranging plan to address “a national public health emergency": gun violence

Since its formation, the group and the surge of extraordinary youth activism that accompanied it have successfully reframed the issue of gun control as a safety issue rather than exclusively a Second Amendment one. States passed dozens of bills on guns and safety that year. But so far, that activism has led to few legislative successes at the federal level.

The plan offers the group’s most detailed outline to date of what laws it thinks needs to happen at that level. Described as “a Green New Deal, but for guns,” by one of the organization’s key leaders, it calls on policymakers to:

  • Pass a federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. (A previous federal ban on these expired in 2004.)
  • Create a national gun buy-back and disposal program to implement that ban.
  • Create a national licensing system for guns, including limiting firearm purchases to one a month and prohibiting online sales.
  • Raising the minimum age of gun possession to 21. (Long guns can be purchased at younger ages in many states.)
  • Create a federal “red flag” law to disarm individuals who are a danger to themselves or to others.
  • Establish a new National Director of Gun Violence Prevention in the White House who reports directly to the president.
  • Use a multiagency approach to declare an emergency around gun violence and invest millions in research to address gun violence. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently proscribed from studying gun violence.)
  • Improve policing and expand suicide prevention and mental and behavioral health programs.
  • Hold the national gun industry to account by investigating the National Rifle Association, regulating the gun industry, and making a push to revisit Second Amendment jurisprudence.
  • Institute automatic voter registration for young people.

The plan comes just weeks after a series of mass shootings, in El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; and Gilroy, Calif. And 23 people have been killed or injured in school shootings in 2019 so far, according to Education Week’s continually updated tracker of school shootings.

Gun control is also heating up as an issue in the 2020 race for the White House. (Politico has a good rundown of where the candidates stand on some of the gun-control issues.)

Some candidates are already taking note. Former U.S. House Rep. Beto O’Rourke, in the running for the Democratic presidential nomination, already tweeted that he supports the plan.

March for Our Lives did not immediately respond to an interview request.

Voting Matters

The plan also says that the United States should automatically register voters when they turn 18. (This is a widely used policy in many European countries.) Currently, the group says, only 16 states use automatic voter registration; similarly, some states allow teenagers to pre-register.

The plan’s focus on voting is notable: Virtually all the changes envisioned in the plan depend on legislative or executive action. It is not, however, a new focus for the March For Our Lives activists. They pushed as heavily on voter registration as they did on the issue of gun control during a 2018 tour that touched dozens of cities. And that approach seems to have paid dividends: According to Tufts University researchers, 22 percent of 18- and 19-year-olds voted in the 2018 midterm elections, part of an overall youth boom in voting.

Advocates are hopeful young people will turn out again in 2020, but that’s hardly a done deal, in part because schools do not always proffer voter-registration forms for young people as part of their civics education.

The group also proposes a Safety Corps, modeled on the Peace Corps, to fund one-year fellowships to work on “anti-poverty and criminal justice reform nonprofit programs that address the root causes of gun violence.”

See the plan below: