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Students to confront presidential candidates at gun safety forum

Lauren Hogg and Ariel Hobbs would prefer not to have to skip school and come to Las Vegas to talk about gun control with 10 Democratic presidential nominees.

In fact, Hogg — a 16-year-old survivor of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida — said if legislators had taken more action following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 or even at Columbine High School in 1999, she wouldn’t have lost her friends and would get to be a “normal, junior 16-year-old girl in high school.”

But routine mass shootings across the country have led them here.

Hogg is a co-founder of the national March for Our Lives group that spawned from the Parkland shooting. Hobbs, 21, watched the Parkland shooting in horror and was spurred to action, in part because of her family’s own experience with gun violence.

Both will be part of the crowd confronting the top 10 Democratic presidential candidates at a 2020 Gun Safety Forum on Wednesday hosted by the March for Our Lives group and the Giffords organization, both of which are pushing for stricter gun control measures nationwide.

“I think collectively, we all feel as though this needs to continue to be part of our narrative as a nation, especially when we’re looking towards electing these new individuals to president,” Hogg said. “It’s vital that they keep this on the forefront of the conversation.”

The group of Parkland teenagers launched gun reform into the national spotlight and in the years since the shooting have been trying to hold legislators accountable while taking on the gun lobby.

Now, March for our Lives has rolled out a “Peace Plan” ahead of the 2020 elections that outlines a number of gun control measures — including a national gun licensing and registry system; a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and federal investigations into the National Rifle Association.

Those are no small tasks in today’s divided Congress, but these students have some hope after watching their peers change the national dialogue around gun control.

“I’ve seen the talk and the attitude around the conversation change,” said Hobbs, a student at the University of Houston and board member of March for Our Lives. “I’ve seen it shift to more people becoming more open about needing gun reform and being more responsible.”

But the students also carry loads of frustration over the inaction of Congress and legislators.

While the students are hopeful that the House of Representatives has passed bills such as HR 8, which requires a background check for every firearm sale, they know that it still has to pass muster in the Senate.

And Hobbs, a native Texan, is frustrated that a number of new laws that eased gun restrictions took effect after the Odessa-Midland and El Paso shootings in August.

“It’s kind of a slap in the face if I’m being completely honest with you,” she said. “It’s very aggravating and angering.”

The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The forum, hosted by Craig Melvin of MSNBC Live, will bring the top 10 Democratic contenders face-to-face with advocates and victims of gun violence.

“None of us can afford to stop fighting and advocating for gun violence prevention legislation to be passed,” Hobbs said. “Sometimes you just have to pick yourself up and be like, ‘Okay, it’s not the end. We need to find a way to fight this — whether we have to vote them out or do something.’”

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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