Parkland Survivor On 'March For Our Lives'
NOEL KING, HOST:
Here in Washington, and across the country tomorrow, people will march in the streets. Many of them are young people. Their demand - an end to gun violence. Cameron Kasky is one of the teenagers who organized the march. He survived the Florida school shooting in February. Here he is confronting Senator Marco Rubio at a CNN town hall on guns after the Parkland shooting.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
CAMERON KASKY: In the name of 17 people, you cannot ask the NRA to keep their money out of your campaign?
MARCO RUBIO: I think in the name of 17 people, I can pledge to you that I will support any law that will prevent a killer like this...
KASKY: No, but I'm talking about NRA money.
KING: And I asked him what's on the agenda for tomorrow.
KASKY: Everybody who's speaking is young. We don't have anybody over the age of what I think is 20 - I think it might even be younger than that - because this is our story. This is our generation. Our generation has had to deal with this the whole time. It's our time to talk. You know, you can send your thoughts and prayers. These are our thoughts. You have to listen now.
KING: Well, how do you organize something like that? You're 17 years old. You're a high school student.
KASKY: Well, we get them to march for something they believe in. If we can all agree on what we're trying to march for, people are going to come and march. People believe in an assault weapons ban. People believe in universal background checks. These people are marching not because we were able to sway them into marching. They're marching because our lives depend on it.
KING: Well, not long after the shooting, you and some of your fellow students who spoke for stricter gun control were labeled crisis actors. People said you were paid by the far left to further an anti-gun agenda. How do you feel about that?
KASKY: When people can't attack your argument because it's too tight, they start attacking you personally. And that's sort of how you know you've won. So when they want to call us crisis actors, that means they looked at our rhetoric and said, oh, no. They're right. What do we do? Let's make something up.
KING: You are working with progressive groups, though - right? - like Indivisible, which is a movement to resist the Trump agenda. You have dipped a toe into politics here.
KASKY: Correct. Thanks for bringing that up.
KING: Tell me more.
KASKY: You know, our story was told because we are an affluent white community. And we have to shine the spotlight that was given on us on everybody in the world who has to deal with this on a daily basis. So people like Indivisible, who represent students who are in lower-income communities and don't get to speak out the way we do because people don't listen, we have to connect with these students.
KING: I've read some really interesting op-eds by students about your age who say, you know, I'm growing up in rural America. Guns are part of my family's culture. I like target shooting. I don't think guns are a bad thing. What do you say to a 17-year-old who fundamentally disagrees with you about some of this stuff?
KASKY: Well, I say we're marching to protect you from other people like you who have guns. And I say that target shooting, while it is a sport, we've become the targets. We're the targets now. We are running away from people like you. And to those in states with more relaxed gun laws, shooters are going to your states and buying your guns because it's easy, because your gun laws are embarrassing.
KING: You have a massive social media following. People are certainly listening to you. How do you make sure that your personal agenda stays your personal agenda?
KASKY: Oh, I don't get influenced by people that aren't me. It's very difficult, and it's a daunting thought because power so often corrupts. And when you have this kind of platform, a lot of people want it and a lot of people want to use what we have for their own agenda. Our only way to fix that is to stay on our message, is to say what we're saying and don't let anybody else corrupt us. We listen to all the advice we get. Whenever people say, I was in the civil rights movement, I was in the movement that ended the war in Vietnam, here's my 2 cents, we are happy to listen to them. The second somebody suggests that they take control of anything, we respectfully decline because this only works because it's us.
KING: So the leadership of this movement still is teenagers?
KASKY: Yes. And while we have people who help us, while we have people who can help us book hotels and get city permits, those aren't the people controlling our message. Those aren't the people writing our words. The only reason this has worked and the only reason this will continue to work is because we don't let ourselves get bastardized by others.
KING: OK. Cameron Kasky is a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He's one of the organizers of tomorrow's March For Our Lives. Cameron, thank you so much.
KASKY: Thank you. Have a good one.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.