FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — When the shooter in the 2018 Parkland school massacre finally pleaded guilty last month, it briefly revived attention and donations for the anti-gun violence March For Our Lives student movement birthed by the tragedy.

The incident also exposed personal trauma to many young activists. However, most of them are hundreds of kilometers away from college.

Jaclyn Corin, 21, one of the group’s original organizers and now a Harvard junior, stayed off social media the week of the shooter’s court proceedings to avoid painful memories. However, her loved ones sent support texts every day and made it difficult for her not to pay attention.

“I try my best not to think about him and the violence that he inflicted, but it’s incredibly hard to do that when someone who ruined your life and the lives of literally everyone in your community is trending on social media.”

After the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Doug High School that resulted in 17 deaths, the teens formed one of Washington’s most powerful youth protests. They also rallied nearly a million supporters in sister marches all over the US. The teens were featured in Time magazine, and they raised millions of dollars to support March For Our Lives. They testified before Congress, met with the president, won the International Children’s Peace Prize and launched a 60-plus city bus tour to register tens of thousands of young voters.

March For Our Lives, a 300-page organization has grown to include a number of gun violence prevention legislation bills. It also regularly files amicus briefs on gun-related lawsuits.

Yet some of the original founders, including Emma Gonzalez, have left or taken a step back — or moved on to other issues. One of the founders is now running for Congress, Florida.

Corin had become so tired of activism after she began college, she declared that she required a year to herself.

“A lot of our trauma from the shooting is inherently linked to the organization,” she said.

The twenty-somethings managed to maintain the organization’s youth leadership and viability nearly four years later. Still, they’ve struggled to achieve sustainable financing. The group has already raised $31million, however its operational costs are slightly more than the 2020 funds.

David Hogg is a familiar face from the group. However, he said that it’s much safer now than when the group was founded.

“When you get a bunch of traumatized teenagers together and say, ‘It’s up to you to fix this,’ … the weight that puts on a 17-year-old mind or a 14-year-old mind like my sister’s after she lost four friends that day is enormous.”

Hogg was also an Harvard student, but he waited a year for Harvard to grow the company. Last week, he was at Washington for the Supreme Court case on the right to possess a firearm in public in self-defense. The organization filed an amicus brief in support of a New York law.

“There are days when I want to stop. It is not always easy. But there are days when I realize I am not alone in this work,” Hogg said in a recent interview.

Hogg, who has drawn persistent scorn from conservatives including Georgia’s Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Fox NewsLaura Ingraham (professeur), said that March For Our Lives is focused upon the long-term. It hopes it will encourage young people to run for office in their respective states, to become judges, and to draft policy.

During the period leading to 2020, the volunteers in the organisation made more than 1,000,000 phone and text calls.

Maxwell Frost, one of the group’s founders and its former organizing director, is running for an open congressional seat from Orlando. Another founding member, Charlie Mirsky, took a year off to work full time as the organization’s policy director before before enrolling at Lafayette College. He helped to create a branch of judicial advocacy for the organization last summer and wrote amicus briefs.

While gun control remains the group’s chief mission, the students said they consider issues like racism, poverty and voter disenfranchisement to be intertwined and have focused extra efforts on communities of color affected by gun violence.

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s protests last year, many students marched in support of Black Lives Matters.

Eastmond is a Trinity Washington University student and was in Holocaust history when the gunman attacked. The now 20-year-old took part in March For Our Lives’ bus tour, though she is not a formal member of the group.

“I wanted to make sure we were addressing inner city gun violence that disproportionately impacts Black and brown youth,” Eastmond said. “I felt like that was a huge part of the conversation that is overlooked.”

Now, a jury is expected to decide whether Parkland School Shooter Will Spend Life in Prison or Get the Death Penalty in January. Student activists now have to grapple with gun violence’s human cost. The organization does not have a formal position, but the students said they support whatever the victims’ families want.

“I think it’s a really difficult scenario,” Corin said. “I struggle with the morality of the death penalty often, but I do know that it could give victims’ families peace, specifically in this case where we know the person is guilty.”


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