After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, spawned the March for Our Lives, one of the largest youth protests since the Vietnam War, the student activists behind the movement are launching a nationwide summer bus tour, focused on voter registration and challenging the National Rifle Association's power.
March for Our Lives: Road to Change kicks off June 15 at the Peace March in Chicago, led by the students of St. Sabina Academy. The bus tour will make more than 75 stops through August. Student activists will also hold a separate, simultaneous tour making 27 stops in Florida alone, visiting every congressional district in the state.
Asked why the national tour will be starting in Chicago, Sarah Chadwick, a 16-year-old junior at MSD, told Refinery29, "Chicago has a high rate of gun violence. We've met so many amazing people from those communities, so it's important for us to stand with them because they don't get as much media coverage as we do. It's about uniting communities that you might not think have anything in common."
The tour, organizers say, will be educating young voters on two things: the gun-reform measures they believe will stop senseless deaths and whether or not their local candidate has the support of the NRA.
Some of the reforms March for Our Lives organizers are pushing for are implementing universal and comprehensive background checks, creating a searchable database for gun owners, funding the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence so that reform policies are backed up by data, and banning semi-automatic assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.
"What we're doing this summer is completely unprecedented," Jaclyn Corin, a 17-year-old junior at MSD, said.
The students say that in addition to registering young people to vote, they will be holding town halls and rallies, visiting gun clubs, speaking to NRA members, and meeting with politicians in key districts. The movement is non-partisan, Corin said; they are specifically targeting politicians that have been supported by the NRA. "We’ve talked to members of the NRA and a lot of them support us," Corin added. "A lot of individual NRA members actually agree with us on a lot of issues."
"Look people up and do your research," Chadwick told Refinery29. "You don't have to vote along your party line if they don't have your best interest in mind; vote on policies and not necessarily people."
The bus tour is operating in partnership with Rock the Vote, Headcount, NAACP, Mi Familia Vota, and the Townhall Project.
The students hope that the tour will keep the movement's momentum going — and keep the nation's attention on their ultimate goal.
"This feeling of what happened to our school, it doesn't just go away after a few months," Corin told Refinery29. "We want to keep that feeling from being a part of many other communities."