2 years after the Pulse nightclub shooting, young gun-control activists plan 'die-in' on Capitol Hill
On June 12, 2016, high school sophomore Amanda Fugleberg awoke to the shocking news that dozens of people had been killed in a shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub just 15 minutes from her Orlando, Fla., home.
Two years later, she and two other teenagers are organizing a die-in protest Tuesday on Capitol Hill to remember the 49 lost lives and push for gun control. The event begins at 10:30 a.m. with speeches by activists and culminates in a 12-minute "die-in" at noon — roughly one second for every mass shooting since the Pulse attack.
"When Pulse happened, it was a huge thing, and it was horrifying," Fugleberg told USA TODAY. She remembered worrying about her cousins, who are part of the LGBTQ community, and hoping they had not been at the club. "Two years later, you still feel the effects."
Fugleberg is part of a generation of young gun-control activists associated with the survivors of a February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which killed 17 people. The youths have successfully pushed for changes in Florida gun laws and organized the massive March for Our LIves rallies in Washington, D.C., and across the country.
David Hogg, one of the most vocal Parkland students, helped Fugleberg and her co-organizers, Nurah Abdulhaqq and Acadia Gilchrist, plan the die-in. They have spent weeks pulling the event together and expect at least 5,000 people to attend. They're also encouraging activists who can't make it to Washington, D.C., to organize sister die-ins across the country.
"Every student activist I've met is extremely driven, and it’s empowering that we’re all leaders right now," said Gilchrist, a high school senior from Syracuse, N.Y. "It’s sad that we have to be, but at the same time, we all know it’s necessary."
Gun control remains a nationally controversial topic as activists push for the introduction of gun policy changes after each tragedy and proponents of gun rights fight for protection of the Second Amendment. Schools have been at the center of the conversation; shootings at Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook Elementary School and Santa Fe High School as well as Marjory Stoneman Douglas have been among the deadliest attacks.
Abdulhaqq, 14, a student from Douglasville, Ga., is emblematic of the vanguard of today's gun-control movement: young people whose exposure to tragedy has driven them toward activism. She's been fighting for gun control since she lost a close family friend to gun violence two years ago.
"We’re the people who are going to be the most affected by it," said Abdulhaqq, who connected with other activists through a group chat.
"The youth movement has been particularly helpful in driving this intensity," said Peter Ambler, executive director at Giffords, a gun violence prevention organization. "There’s only one large group of people who can sort of point their fingers at the politicians and who basically don’t share the blame because they haven’t been able to vote."
Since the Pulse shooting, Ambler said, the gun-control movement has changed considerably: It's become a more prominent voting issue and has picked up corporate support in addition to animating a generation of young people.
Fugleberg, who graduated from high school two weeks ago, is excited to count herself a member of the new activist generation. "It’s really cool to feel like we’re actually a part of something and hopefully making a change," she said.