Parkland School Shooting Survivors Kick Off Bus Tour in Dallas
The first ballot Joanna Haug ever cast was in Louisiana, where she voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
But the 21-year-old felt like her ballot didn't carry much weight in the deep red state, so this time around she wants to make sure she's registered in Texas, where she believes her vote might make a difference in the November midterm elections.
"I wanted to be able to make a difference in the place where I'm living, not necessarily the place where I'm from," said Haug, who is entering her senior year at the University of Texas at Dallas.
She was one of several young people who registered to vote Saturday afternoon at a booth outside Paul Quinn College, where leaders from "March For Our Lives" held a town hall.
Formed by the survivors of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., the group kicked off a "Road to Change" bus tour that will travel to 75 cities in more than 20 states throughout the summer.
The bus tour, launched in early June, will stop in Houston and San Antonio over the next few days, before making its final Texas stop in El Paso on Tuesday. Then, the tour heads west to New Mexico and beyond.
Several March For Our Lives leaders, including some current and former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students, held a panel on gun violence at Saturday's town hall.
They discussed how young people can push for gun-control measures like universal background checks and bans on high-capacity magazines and semi-automatic assault rifles, among other reforms.
"This issue is so much bigger than just schools," said panelist Waed Alhayek, a 19-year-old student at the University of Texas at Arlington. "People don't feel safe anywhere. They don't feel safe at churches; they don't feel safe in their own homes."
On the other side of the debate, a nationwide coalition of high school and college students held their own rallies Saturday to counter the Parkland students' bus tour.
March for Our Rights, a pro-gun rights nonprofit, held rallies in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Houston to show that the Parkland students and their supporters don't speak for all young voters.
Just across the street from Paul Quinn, about 20 protesters from Open Carry Texas gathered to show their support for the Second Amendment to counter the town hall, holding signs that read "Guns Save Lives" and "Don't Tread On Me."
Jonathan Garcia, 32, said people on both sides of the gun debate have one thing in common: They want to stop school shootings. Where they differ, he said, is how best to keep kids safe.
"We're not talking about forcing teachers to become armed security guards or anything," said Garcia, who's from Temple. "We're just saying that teachers who already lawfully carry at other places ... should be able to keep their rights when they go to school to defend themselves and their class, if they choose to do so."
Parkland survivor Alfonso Calderon, 16, said assertions that they're trying to take away people's guns are off-base. But the Second Amendment, he reminded the crowd, calls for "well-regulated" militias.
"Honest to God, we support the Second Amendment, and we respect responsible gun owners," he said. "In the United States, domestic abusers still have Second Amendment rights, so there are people out there who can beat their wife and still own a gun. That to me doesn't sound like 'well-regulated.'"