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‘We all have the same enemy — gun violence’: David Hogg says common ground can be found to change gun policies

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor David Hogg speaks in front of reporters at an installation of body bags assembled on the National Mall by gun control activist group March For Our Lives in March in Washington, D.C.Anna Moneymaker/Getty

David Hogg, a survivor of the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. who became one of the country’s leading anti-gun violence advocates, is a rarity amid the intense reaction to the Uvalde and Buffalo mass shootings: He is optimistic that changes to gun policy can be made.

“I’ve seen the grassroots energy on the ground,” said Hogg, 22, co-founder of the advocacy group March For Our Lives, in a phone interview Friday from Houston, where the National Rifle Association is holding its annual convention days after a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas killed 19 students and two teachers. “People are ready for change.”

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Hogg, who was a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when a mass shooting took 17 lives and is now a Harvard student, took to social media Friday to push for unity among those on all sides of the gun debate.

Even small policy changes, he said, are worth pursuing.

“Our enemy is not [Republican] or [Democrat] or gun owners,“ he tweeted Friday. “We all have the same enemy — gun violence, and it’s going to take all of us focusing on what we can agree on even if small to do something about it.”

Asked how those advocating for change can counter the influence of gun-rights groups like the NRA, Hogg said, “Bringing their members in, honestly.”

Hogg has directly reached out to gun owners on social media, urging them to break with the NRA using the hashtag #GunOwnersForSafety.” He said Friday that thousands of people have responded to his Twitter callout.

“Some of those tweets are quite remarkable,” Hogg said, pointing to self-identified gun owners, hunters, firearm instructors, and veterans who’ve added the hashtag to tweets that say words to the effect of, “ ‘I don’t agree with what the NRA says, I believe we need change.’ We’re really trying to get as many allies as possible.”

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His words were echoed by Mariah Cooley, 20, a Howard University student and March For Our Lives board member.

“I wholeheartedly believe we are going to see the change we’ve been fighting for,” said Cooley, adding that March For Our Lives on June 11 will hold marches in Washington D.C. and some 200 other cities to call for gun control legislation. Boston is among the cities planning a march for that day.

She said the “number-one priority” after the June 11 marches will be pushing for universal background checks on gun purchases, a policy change she described as “just the beginning.”

Hogg said additional measures include raising the age for legal gun purchases to 21, as well as passing so-called red flag laws like the one Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law in 2018 that gives state judges the power to strip a person of their legally owned guns after a family member, current or former romantic partner, or local police official files a signed affidavit with the court, identifying the individual as a danger.

Hogg referenced prior reporting in the Globe that found if every state had the same gun death rate in 2016 as Massachusetts, a state with some of the strictest gun laws in the country, some 27,000 lives could’ve been saved that year.

Measures such as red flag laws, Hogg said, “have wide bipartisan support.”

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In a series of earlier interviews on CNN this week, Hogg said he believes small moves on gun control are better than none, and that no single policy change will effectively reduce mass shootings and overall gun violence in the United States.

“We need to stop talking about what we can’t agree on, and as Americans, start talking about what we can,” he told CNN.

Hogg said politicians are lying when they say the divisions on gun control are so great that no change can take place.

“We’re being misled in a number of ways to believe that we can’t work together to protect the most valuable thing that we are here to protect, which is our children and as a result our future,’' he told CNN. “We have to focus on what we can agree on.”

Hogg said that the political model one should follow is the one crafted by the NRA, whose members contact members of Congress and state lawmakers year after year, assuring their views are embraced by politicians across the country.

“We got to keep this momentum up even when the cameras go away,” Hogg told the Globe on Friday, urging reform supporters to “show up at your state legislature every single year” to press for change at the state level.

In an opinion piece published in the Globe authored with Jon Rosenthal of Stop Handgun Violence, the two advocates identified several ideas as ones that could be adopted by Congress.

Among them was the enactment of a universal criminal background check, renewing the previous federal ban on military-style assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines, and imposing consumer protection regulations on the firearm industry, which is currently prohibited from oversight by federal law.

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Noah Lumbantobing, a spokesman for March For Our Lives, told the Globe Friday that Republican Rick Scott was Florida governor in 2018 when the state passed red flag and background check laws and he is currently a US senator.

“There’s a lot of hope” those successes can be replicated, Lumbantobing said.



John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.