Never Again MSD
|Formation||February 15, 2018|
|Purpose||Gun control advocacy after the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018|
Never Again MSD is an American student-led political action committee for gun control that advocates for tighter regulations to prevent gun violence. The organization, also known by the Twitter hashtags #NeverAgain, and #EnoughIsEnough, was formed by a group of twenty students attending the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) at the time of the shooting in 2018, in which seventeen students and staff members were killed by the alleged gunman, who was a former student at the school and armed with an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle. The organization started on social media as a movement "for survivors of the Stoneman Douglas Shooting, by survivors of the Stoneman Douglas Shooting" using the hashtag #NeverAgain. A main goal of the group was to influence the 2018 United States elections, and they embarked on a multi-city bus tour in June 2018 to encourage young people to register to vote.
The organization staged protests demanding legislative action to be taken to prevent similar shootings in the future and has vocally condemned U.S. lawmakers who have received political contributions from the National Rifle Association (NRA). It was credited in the Washington Post as winning a "stunning victory" against the NRA in the Florida legislature in March 2018 when both houses voted for various gun control measures. The law increased funding for school security and raised the required age to buy a gun from 18 to 21.
Among the organization's most prominent members are Alfonso Calderon, Sarah Chadwick, Jaclyn Corin, Ryan Deitsch, Emma González, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, and Alex Wind. Corin, González, Hogg, Kasky, and Wind were featured on a cover of Time in March 2018. In December 2018, it was announced that the March for Our Lives activists made the shortlist for Time's Person of the Year at number four.
The group was co-formed by Cameron Kasky and his high school friends in the first four days after the shooting, which was committed by an alleged gunman, who was a former student at the school and armed with an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle.
The initial three co-founders were Kasky, Alex Wind, and Sofie Whitney. On February 15, 2018, one day after the shooting, Kasky met with Wind at a candlelight vigil. Wind stated, "The day after the shooting, we said something needs to happen; there needs to be a central space; there needs to be a movement." After the vigil, Kasky invited Wind and Whitney to his house. Kasky came up with the name "Never Again" while the group stayed up through the night to make plans, and he posted "Stay alert. #NeverAgain" to Facebook.
Over the next three days after the shooting, the group gained over 35,000 followers on Facebook. Kasky recruited other Stoneman Douglas students David Hogg, Emma González, and Delaney Tarr at a gun-control rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where they spoke; other students quickly joined. The students gave as many interviews as they could to television networks. The group said they worked quickly to take advantage of the national media attention given to the shooting and its aftermath. Numerous Stoneman Douglas students have been shown in media coverage. By the next day, the group had created Twitter accounts and announced a nationwide protest, for March 24, 2018. The March 24 protest involved millions of people in over 800 sites across the US and in other countries.
The Fort Lauderdale gun control rally at Broward County Federal Courthouse on February 17, 2018 was attended by hundreds of supporters. Elected officials and gun control advocates, including Florida Senator Gary Farmer, called for common sense gun laws and firearm safety legislation. At this rally, Emma González began her speech with a moment of silence for the 17 victims killed in the school shooting. She then gave an impassioned 11-minute speech, in which she demanded to know where the "common sense" was in America's gun laws, calling out members of Congress who have accepted contributions from the NRA. González was noted for rebuking "thoughts and prayers" from the government and President Donald Trump.
In an opinion column for CNN, Parkland student Cameron Kasky wrote: "We can't ignore the issues of gun control that this tragedy raises. And so, I'm asking—no, demanding—we take action now." David Hogg said, in an interview with CBS This Morning, "The policy makers in this country must work together. And I don't care if you're a Republican or a Democrat. These are children's lives."
Delaney Tarr wrote an op-ed for Teen Vogue, in which she discussed why she and her fellow students were organizing in response to the mass shooting at Parkland. She stated "Knowing that we can keep this from happening to even one more person is the only thing that makes me feel even a little bit better about living through this senseless tragedy ... We are no longer just high school students, that much is true. We are now the future, we are a movement, we are the change."
The first organized #NeverAgain movement protest was a march on the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee on February 20, 2018. The group worked with congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Florida Senator Lauren Book to arrange a bus trip for one hundred students and fifteen parent chaperones to the Capitol to voice their concerns with lawmakers and demand action on gun violence. Jaclyn Corin was a key organizer of the bus trip protest. A report in Vanity Fair suggested it was her idea to have the bus trip soon after the shooting because it was alive in the news cycle; she said "the news forgets – very quickly – we needed a critical mass event." Sofie Whitney, one of the organizers of the bus trip, was interviewed by CNN's Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper while on the bus en route. Several students, along with Fred Guttenberg, father of a slain student, watched from the gallery as the Florida House voted against considering a bill to ban assault weapons (such as AR-15 style rifles) and high-capacity magazines in a vote of 71 to 36. More than 3,000 people attended a rally at the Capitol the following day.
Never Again MSD and other groups have also played a part in corporations' revocation of NRA sponsorships and discounts for NRA members. Firms which have severed ties with the NRA include the First National Bank of Omaha; car rental companies Hertz, Avis, Enterprise, and Budget; insurer MetLife; Symantec software; home security firm SimpliSafe; and airlines including Delta and United.
Never Again MSD has been credited for including persons of color within their movement. Jaclyn Corin recognized that "Parkland received more attention because of its affluence," while David Hogg faulted the media for "not giving black students a voice." Alex Wind said the protests were about ending gun violence against all communities.
In May 2018 when a decision by the NRA was made to ban guns at a conference in Dallas, at the urging of the Secret Service to protect vice president Mike Pence, Parkland students criticized the decision as hypocritical.
You're telling me to make the VP safe there aren't any weapons around but when it comes to children they want guns everywhere? ... Can someone explain this to me? Because it sounds like the NRA wants to protect people who help them sell guns, not kids.
March for Our Lives
March for Our Lives, a nationwide demonstration that included a march held in Washington, D.C., took place on March 24, 2018. The event was conducted in collaboration with the nonprofit organization Everytown for Gun Safety. Hundreds of thousands of protesters showed up at demonstrations across the United States, as well as internationally, to demand action against gun violence. Many Marjory Stoneman Douglas students spoke out in Washington, DC. González briefly spoke, naming the victims, before standing silent on stage for four minutes. She was on stage for six minutes and twenty seconds, the length of the Parkland shooting.
Yolanda Renee King, Martin Luther King Jr.'s 9-year-old granddaughter brought in by Corin, said during her speech, "I have a dream that enough is enough." In addition to sharing the stage at the protest with King, they also passed the mic to Virginia African-American elementary school student Naomi Wadler. Sir Paul McCartney, speaking to CNN at a sister march in New York City, revealed his T-shirt reading "We can end gun violence."
Never Again MSD has worked to organize town hall meetings across the United States to hold Congress members accountable for their position on gun laws. For town halls on April 7, 2018, the group confirmed events in 30 districts. At a town hall near Parkland, supporters passed out red bumper stickers calling for an assault weapons ban.
Cross–country gun control tour
In June 2018, Never Again MSD announced that the group would travel throughout the United States and hold rallies that summer to call for stronger gun control, and to encourage teenagers who would be eighteen by November 2018 to vote in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. The group stated that it intended to appear in cities where the NRA held the most influence. During the summer and fall, the students traveled to every district in Florida and 30 states across the country, visiting over 100 communities, registering 50,000 voters, and raising awareness about gun violence. In the weeks before the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, the group engaged in another national tour specifically focused on election-related efforts like educating, registering, and encouraging youth voters to vote in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections.
George and Amal Clooney donated $500,000 to the organization to help with the cost of organizing the March for Our Lives demonstration, which they also participated in. Following the Clooneys' announcement, other celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Steven Spielberg pledged to match the $500,000 donation.
In a CNN editorial entitled "The NRA's worst nightmare is here," Dean Obeidallah compared Never Again MSD to the "early days of the #MeToo movement, which caused a cultural shift regarding sexual misconduct."
After some schools threatened to suspend students for participating in peaceful Never Again MSD (#NeverAgain) protests, hundreds of U.S. colleges pledged they would not penalize students disciplined for taking part. These colleges, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University, and the University of Florida, added their names to #NeverAgain Colleges.
We wanted to let you know how inspired we have been by the resilience, resolve and solidarity that you have all shown in the wake of unspeakable tragedy ... Not only have you supported and comforted each other, but you've helped awaken the conscience of the nation, and challenged decision-makers to make the safety of our children the country's top priority. ... Throughout our history, young people like you have led the way in making America better.— Michelle and Barack Obama, March 10, 2018
Misinformation and criticism
Attempts to discredit the Never Again MSD movement in the media have taken the form of verbal attacks and misinformation by right-wing Republican leaders. Former Republican senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum attacked the Parkland activists verbally during an interview with CNN, suggesting that students should take classes in CPR rather than marching in Washington. The Washington Post quoted several doctors ridiculing Santorum for suggesting CPR, which is useless for trauma and blood loss. Leslie Gibson, a Republican candidate for the Maine House of Representatives, disparaged Emma González and David Hogg, but later apologized for his comments and withdrew his candidacy. Iowa Republican Representative Steve King's campaign criticized Emma González for displaying her Cuban heritage.
NRA board member rock musician Ted Nugent described the Parkland activists as "mushy brained and soulless liars,". Alex Jones, a right-wing conspiracy theorist and host of InfoWars, led a campaign to discredit Emma González, David Hogg, and other March for Our Lives protesters by comparing them to Nazis.
Fake pictures and GIFs of Emma González tearing up a copy of the U.S. Constitution circulated on social media in March 2018. The images were doctored from originals of González tearing up a shooting target sign. Actor and conservative commentator Adam Baldwin defended circulating the doctored images as "political satire".
In March 2018, the Florida Legislature passed a bill titled the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. It raised the minimum age for buying firearms to 21, established waiting periods and background checks, provided a program for the arming of some teachers and the hiring of school police, banned bump stocks, and barred potentially violent or mentally unhealthy people arrested under certain laws from possessing guns. In all, it allocated around $400 million. The governor signed the bill into law on March 9. He commented, "To the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, you made your voices heard. You didn't let up and you fought until there was change." John Cassidy stated in The New Yorker, "This was the first time in thirty years that Florida had passed any gun restrictions, and it was a direct response to the Never Again movement, which was founded by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School." Salon suggested that Republican lawmakers have generally remained silent about gun control measures because "they depend heavily on NRA campaign donations, and even more on the NRA's cadre of pro-gun voters". Since February 2018, 67 new pieces of gun violence prevention legislation have been passed in 26 states across the country.
A commitment to reforming gun legislation prompted several seniors to rethink their plans for college; several considered taking a gap year or possibly their first semester off so they could continue their activism campaign.
- Seelinger, Lani (February 19, 2018). "What Is Never Again MSD? Parkland Survivors Are Standing Up To Politicians & The NRA". Bustle. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
... multiple students have banded together to take gun violence prevention into their own hands ... Emma Gonzalez, Cameron Kasky, David Hogg, Alex Wind, Jaclyn Corin, Sofie Whitney, and Delaney Tarr, among others, and they're prepared for a fight ... calling their movement Never Again, and the "MSD" added at the end of their Twitter account refers to the name of their school ... We are sick of the Florida lawmakers choosing money from the NRA over our safety ... holding what they're calling the March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C. on March 24. ... the students behind it are tech savvy, they've fully educated themselves on the issue, and their updates on Twitter show that PR is already one of their main strengths. ...
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..."I never thought something like this would happen, especially in Parkland, Florida. ...
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... since the massacre at their high school, students Emma Gonzalez (from left), David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Alex Wind, Matt Deitsch, and Ryan Deitsch have become among the most recognizable faces in the #NeverAgain movement ...
- "Parkland Students On Cover Of Time Magazine". Houston Public Media. University of Houston. Associated Press. March 22, 2018. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
... The cover features Marjory Stoneman Douglas students Jaclyn Corin, Alex Wind, Emma Gonzalez, Cameron Kasky and David Hogg ...
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Banks and credit companies could effectively ban assault weapons right now, simply by prohibiting customers from using their services to buy them ... [also]executives were considering policies that would lead "assault weapons [to] be eliminated from virtually every firearms store in America because otherwise the sellers would be cut off from the credit card systems.". ... Gunmakers also use credit to make purchases, so banks could throttle them from the supply side, as well.
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...cutting ties with the NRA were the car rental groups Enterprise, Hertz, Avis and Budget ... MetLife ... Symantec ... SimpliSafe. Delta and United ...
- Hamedy, Saba (March 25, 2018). "The Parkland kids keep checking their privilege". CNN. Retrieved March 26, 2018.
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- Culbertson, Alix (February 20, 2018). "George and Amal Clooney donate $500k to Florida shooting survivors' Never Again gun control campaign". Sky News. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
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- Robillard, Kevin (March 25, 2018). "Santorum: Parkland students should learn CPR instead of marching". Politico. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
... Rick Santorum said Sunday that students ... should have responded to the massacre of their classmates by 'taking CPR classes' instead of 'looking to someone else to solve their problem.' ...
- Flynn, Meagan (March 26, 2018). "'Mr. Santorum. CPR doesn't work if all the blood is on the ground'". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 26, 2018.
- Stevens, Matt (March 18, 2018). "'Skinhead Lesbian' Tweet About Parkland Student Ends Maine Republican's Candidacy". The New York Times. Retrieved April 1, 2018.
Mr. Gibson called one Florida student, Emma González, a "skinhead lesbian," and another, David Hogg, a "moron" and a "baldfaced liar."
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- Chauncey Devega, April 4, 2018, Salon magazine, The right’s Parkland problem: A symptom of authoritarian parenting: Conservatives see the Parkland students as disrespectful and dangerous — and those feelings stem from primal fears. Retrieved April 4, 2018, "...Republican elected officials have, for the most part, remained silent ... depend heavily on NRA campaign donations, and ... NRA's cadre of pro-gun voters. ... ."
- Atkinson, Khorri (February 14, 2019). "The flurry of new state gun laws after Parkland". Axios.
- The New York Times, Audra D. S. Birch, March 29, 2018, Parkland Activist Got Some College Rejections. He’ll Major in ‘Changing the World’. Retrieved March 30, 2018,"...some of the most vocal Parkland seniors ... are rethinking their college plans, hoping in one way or another to capitalize on the momentum ..."
- Never Again MSD on Facebook
- Sarah Chadwick rebuts Dana Loesch YouTube video
- Emma González confronts NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch at CNN townhall meeting
- David Hogg and Alfonso Calderon react to the White House's school safety proposals on YouTube