By Nora Mabie
Student activist David Hogg, survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting, joined local activists and community members in Evanston Thursday to call for gun violence prevention. They joined him just a year and a week after the attack that left 14 students and three staff members dead.
Hogg, founder of the March for Our Lives Movement, told the crowd at Beth Emet Synagogue that “the enemy of this issue cannot be Democrats or Republicans – it must be gun violence. As Americans, we must come together and work together … with the understanding that no community goes unaffected by gun violence in the United States.”
Mollie Hartenstein, an Evanston Township High School student, and Lamar Johnson, student violence prevention coordinator of BRAVE youth leaders at Saint Sabina Parish in Chicago, joined Hogg on the panel calling for gun violence research, universal background checks and the disarmament of domestic abusers.
Other gun violence prevention measures included funding intervention and safe storage. The panel was moderated by Nina Vinik, director of gun violence prevention and justice reform program at The Joyce Foundation in Chicago.
Hogg covered political leadership, the National Rifle Association, “toxic masculinity” and mental health in his remarks about the causes of violence. Vinik’s questions to the panel focused on the youth perspective for gun reform.
Vinik began by asking Hogg, Hartenstein and Johnson what adults do not understand about their generation and gun violence prevention, and each panelist offered unique insight.
Hogg emphasized that students want to lead with adults, not against them.
Hartenstein addressed the misconception that the youth-led movement is not legitimate.
Johnson emphasized the importance of appreciating the uncensored nature of the youth movement.
Although Chicago and Parkland are very different communities, each of the panelists noted that they are united in gun violence. Johnson addressed the differences in privilege between Parkland and Chicago.
“What happened last year with March For Our Lives gave Chicago and other major cities that are affected by gun violence every day the platform to tell their own stories,” Johnson said.
Hundreds of community members and teenagers attended the panel, and many teens left feeling personally connected to Hogg and to the MFOL movement.
“I got to meet David (Hogg) before the panel,” said Luka Gebhardt, a sophomore at Niles West High School. “We understood each other on a personal level because we’re both young.”
“I participated in my school walkout,” said Molly Pfeifer, a junior at Walter Payton College Prep, referencing the thousands of MFOL-coordinated school walkouts that occurred nationwide after the Parkland shooting. The walkout “was really powerful, and I hope things like that continue to make a difference.”