School Climate & Safety News in Brief

Activists’ Agenda Turns to Voting

By Evie Blad — June 12, 2018 2 min read
Cameron Kasky, a Parkland, Fla., school shooting survivor, talks about a multistate voter drive to “get young people educated, registered, and motivated to vote.”

Students who launched a youth movement for stronger gun laws after surviving a mass shooting at their Parkland, Fla., high school have kicked off a nationwide tour aimed at registering young voters.

The student organizers of March for Our Lives plan 75 stops in cities around the country and a separate tour that stops in every Florida congressional district. The Road to Change Tour will seek to build on enthusiasm generated by school walkouts and rallies for new gun laws that followed the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people died Feb. 14.

Their aim? Drive up voter participation in the 2018 midterms, especially among young voters, who tend to have lower turnout.

“I think a lot of people have been less excited about voting because they are tired of the political system,” Stoneman Douglas student Cameron Kasky said at a press conference announcing the voter drive. “But the thing is, we can fix the political system. Our generation and the many generations that are helping us can change the game. We do not have to surrender to dirty, awful politics. We can make it better.”

“Academics who study the gun control movement say gun rights activists often refuse to consider candidates who don’t agree with them on that issue. But voters who favor stronger gun laws often consider the issue among a list of political concerns when selecting a candidate.

Robert Spitzer, a political science professor at SUNY Cortland who has written five books on the gun debate, told Education Week that the key for student activists is convincing voters who favor tougher gun restrictions to make it a higher priority issue at the polls. They must also convert the energy of young people into votes, he said.

“What happens typically [after a shooting] is that that energy and that sentiment on the gun safety side subsides,” Spitzer said. “Mostly because while most Americans favor stronger gun laws, it’s not a top tier issue for them.”

The demand for new gun laws is not unanimous among those affected by school shootings.

Some in Parkland, including some victims’ family members, have said that an ambitious push for new gun laws is a distraction from more achievable goals, like new school safety measures. Some have championed both new gun laws and new safety efforts.

In Santa Fe, Texas, the site of a May school shooting that claimed 10 lives, students were less likely to respond with a push for new firearms restrictions.

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A version of this article appeared in the June 13, 2018 edition of Education Week as Activists’ Agenda Turns to Voting

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