A panel of activists, including Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg, said Sunday that the next steps in solving the national gun violence crisis hinges on two things: funding research on gun-related deaths, and whom the voters choose to elect in the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
“You have to attack the source. You have to attack the source that is driving the violence in America,” Hogg, who survived a deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida in February, said at a HUBweek event in Faneuil Hall centered around youth activism and gun violence.
The conversation — moderated by the Rev. Mariama White-Hammond — also included Chana Sacks, a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital whose 7-year-old cousin was killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and Ritchy Rinchet, a junior who works with the Boston Public School Street Team, a group that promotes community initiatives and events through grass-roots tactics.
Despite the prominence of mass shootings, Sacks said they made up a small percentage of gun deaths. Instead, the panelists highlighted the more common gun-related deaths such as accidental shootings and homicides. Sacks also emphasized that nearly two-thirds of the 22,000 gun deaths reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were suicides.
“We sometimes talk about gun violence like it’s one thing,” said Sacks, who also co-founded the MGH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition. “But there’s so much that’s not talked about and should be handled differently.”
Hogg added that some states — such as Massachusetts — have already put laws into place to promote gun safety and regulate firearm purchases, but federal legislators have been slow to follow suit, citing a lack of national research on gun violence.
“I’ve talked to politicians who say, ‘It’s great that you advocate for this but there’s no research on it,’” said Hogg. “Here’s a thought: What if we actually solved this issue and funded research and found the root cause of this issue?”
Rinchet, a senior at Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester, said although students have been vying for a greater voice in the national gun debate — citing the nationwide March for Our Lives rally earlier this year — young voices of color have been ignored on a topic that disproportionately affects them.
“My friends and I are trying to do something, but there’s limits to what we can do,” said Rinchet. “We can’t just do a walkout because there are consequences.”
Hogg told a story about how black students in Chicago were dissuaded from protesting gun violence while white students in another part of town were celebrated by their teachers.
“The weight of your voice should not be determined by your zip code,” Hogg said.
Ultimately, the panelists emphasized that the decisions on gun safety would be decided by politicians, and called on the audience to vote for legislators who would not be persuaded by the gun lobby.
“If we truly want to end this issue, it can’t just end in one zip code or neighborhood,” Hogg said. “This has to end by working together to vote into office people that care about you.”