School shooting survivor brings message to QU

By Andrea McCaffrey, Photo by Daniel Passapera '23 November 11, 2023

David Hogg stands at a podium and addresses the QU audience

His voice thick with emotion, school shooting survivor, national activist and New York Times bestselling author David Hogg shared his story to the rapt attention of students and faculty gathered to hear his message on Thursday, April 20, at Quinnipiac’s Mount Carmel Campus.

Now a Harvard University graduate, Hogg is a survivor of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed.

“On what was a regular day in February, my ideal plans were shattered by a gunman who entered the building of our school and decided to turn our schoolhouse into a slaughterhouse,” said Hogg. “For over an hour, myself and everyone in my classroom sat waiting, wondering if we would leave that room alive.”

Fearing for his younger sister, Lauren, who was also a MSD student, Hogg searched for the words to comfort her as they texted each other and waited for information as the hour dragged on. Not knowing what to do, Hogg began to record his classmates in what would become one of his first acts of advocacy against gun violence.

“I did not know what to say. I did not know how to act. So, I started interviewing my classmates. I wanted to create a digital recording of the event with the hope…that even if our bodies were left behind in that class, on that floor, our voices would carry on,” said Hogg. “I thought hopefully our death might be the change that would save lives in the future.”

It is the memory of that terrifying experience that has motivated Hogg to advocate tirelessly for sensible gun laws, youth political advocacy and increased funding for gun violence research and mental health resources.

“I reunited with my sister later that evening, and for that, I am still grateful. However, my life is forever changed,” said Hogg. “It's because one man who never should have been allowed to own a gun came into a place of learning and murdered 14 students and three adults and injured 17 others with his AR-15. The story of that hour is forever seared in my mind. I will never forget it.”

Sponsored by Quinnipiac Democrats, Hogg spoke candidly about his experience on that day and the years of activism that have followed, stressing the importance of voting in state elections, common sense gun laws, increased mental health measures, and the importance of working with politicians on both sides of the aisle.

It is a timely message that everyone should hear, said political science and economics major Paul Cappuzzo ’23, one of the event organizers and president of Quinnipiac Democrats.

“I was a junior in high school in my AP United States government politics class when I got a notification that there was another school shooting in Arkansas,” said Cappuzzo. “Since then, David has been one of those political figures I look up to. I found a connection with David, and I’ve admired how he has taken steps to help those in other communities. Because it's an epidemic, and we have all been impacted.”

As co-founder of the largest gun reform movement in U.S. history, March for Our Lives, Hogg has become one of the most persuasive voices of his generation. Passionate in his advocacy to end gun violence, Hogg’s mission of increasing voter participation, civic engagement and activism embraces a range of issues. His first student-run protest on March 24, 2018, in Washington, D.C., was held only 38 days after the Parkland school shooting and drew over 800,000 people to march.  On June 11, 2022, more than 70,000 marched in D.C., and 450+ sibling marches took place nationwide. These efforts helped to facilitate the June 24, 2022, passing of the first federal legislation on gun violence in decades, a bipartisan bill representing the most significant gun safety legislation in 30 years.

When youth-led movements are supported by people of all ages across political parties, historical measures can be passed and ultimately, lives will be saved, said Hogg.

“No fewer than 200,000 Americans have been slaughtered since the shooting at my school. The young people of this country cannot do this without you. People between the age of 30 and 60 make up 60% of the voting population,” said Hogg, imploring members of the audience to get involved and vote in their local and state elections. “When you stand with us in marches, in school board meetings, talk to your friends and let your voices be heard on the national stage, you send a message that gun violence is not going to be tolerated by anyone.”

As a member of the Harvard skeet shooting team and the son of an FBI agent, Hogg doesn’t believe all guns should be banned and continues to push back against the mischaracterization of his personal views and the movement’s goals that are often incorrectly portrayed by media pundits. He advocates for responsible gun ownership.

“Eight days ago, I was in Lansing, Michigan, right next to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as she was signing the first state gun laws around safe storage and things like universal background checks and extremist protection,” said Hogg. “It was the first time in 40 years that gun legislation has been signed and it's because people like you all turned out and voted across the state.”

Hogg also urged those in the audience to utilize their right to vote and cautioned that it is not a liberty that should be taken for granted, especially among young voters. After his address, Hogg answered questions submitted by the audience. At the conclusion of his remarks, he had a special message to his sister Lauren at home and then to everyone else in attendance.

“I am young, and I want to grow old. You are young, and I want you to grow old,” said Hogg, who co-authored the book #NeverAgain with his sister about their experiences and the creation of the national movement. “Let us work together, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans. And let us make this change a reality…so that school shootings and gun violence will be left for the history books and not our headlines."

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