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Youth voices take center stage at March for Our Lives

Students across the country flooded into the streets on Saturday to call for stricter gun control laws in the wake of the Parkland school shooting that killed 17 people in Florida last month. Among the tens of thousands who rallied in Washington, D.C., was a group of students from Patriot High School in Virginia. NewsHour Weekend's Christopher Booker, who traveled with them, has more.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Among the hundreds of thousands of students attending today's march for our lives in Washington, D.C., is a group from Patriot High School in Bristol, Virginia. NewsHour Weekend's Christopher Booker is with them.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    They gathered at 8:00 a.m. this morning in the parking lot of a grocery store in Haymarket, Virginia. Boarding buses for the hour long ride to Washington D.C. to join hundreds of thousands of others who'd come from all over the country to call for stricter gun control. Seniors Megan Black and Liv Mumma helped organize this trip.

  • LIV MUMMA:

    As soon as the Parkland shooting happened, we realized that we had to do something about it but we didn't realize what we could do.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    Like so many students in America gun violence has been a regular part of their school experience. They've practiced lockdown drills since elementary school.

  • MEGAN BLACK:

    Other generations didn't have to deal with this. They didn't have mass shootings. I mean Columbine was one of the first big ones in our country and it hasn't stopped since.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    Muma and Black say they learned about the Parkland shooting that left 17 students, teachers and administrators dead through social media, watching the raw video coming in through Snapchat and Twitter.

  • MEGAN BLACK:

    So I was in school watching the videos of these kids run out of their high school over the dead bodies and their fellow students. And I just, I just cried and cried and I cried some more. So there's a couple days after that when we really started our movement.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    Around 10:00 a.m. the students arrived in downtown Washington D.C. to join the March for our Lives. But it wasn't just kids. Parents, teachers and even political donors joined the march. Ambassador Al Hoffman Jr. is a major supporter of Republicans. But in the wake of the Parkland's shooting, he says, he will not back politicians who don't support an assault weapons ban and other gun control measures.

    AL HOFFMAN JR. I felt that was absolutely necessary that I get involved. You know, this may be my last hurrah. I can't keep up. We've got to get this under control.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    He says if Republicans don't act on gun control measures, there will be consequences in the midterm elections in November.

    AL HOFFMAN JR. I'm a good Republican but I'll tell you we're in deep doo-doo if they don't pay attention to this now.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    The Parkland shooting has activated the political awareness of many young people here for the first time. This group of juniors from Fairfield, Connecticut traveled to Washington D.C. this morning.

  • PROTESTER:

    Everyone is signing up like there was not even enough bus room for everyone to come because so many people showed their interest.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    And for people who have been personally affected by gun violence, they say this time does indeed feel different. Rachel Calahan is a high school teacher in Baltimore. She was a freshman at Virginia Tech in 2007 when a gunman killed 32 people, including a girl who lived on the floor of her dorm.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    So someone who has experienced this firsthand. Are you hopeful that something like changed after this?

  • RACHEL CALAHAN:

    Yes, because of the students. Because of their activism and their local outrage on the internet. Just looking at this I think, we're going to, they're going to make changes.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Joining me now from Washington D.C. is NewsHour Weekend's Christopher Booker. Chris, it seems there are several different motivations for these students.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    Yeah that's right. We've spoken with a number of different students – students from suburban schools and students from urban schools. And what's interesting is that they're all here for the same reason. We spent some time with a group of students from Jacksonville, Florida and while they say they're frustrated that the violence that has fallen on their community often doesn't even make it to the front of their newspaper, let alone the national media, they feel an encouragement that they're able to join this national movement and that finally something might be happening and that they can add their voice and their experience to something that's much larger.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    What is it that the kids you are talking to or are expecting to happen after actions like today's?

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    What's interesting is as we were riding on the bus this morning we asked the students if they believe there will be any effective change as a result of today's assembly and they actually don't think anything will come from this. They say they're well aware of where Congress stands. They're well aware that Congress is not looking to make any major changes to gun legislation. What they're actually focused on is what happens in November. They believe that today is about coming together building momentum and backing candidates that are interested in changing gun laws in America.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    NewsHour Weekend's Chris Booker. Thanks so much.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    Thanks Hari.

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