Aug 15, 2018

There is already a "Parkland effect"

Jammal Lemy and Emma Gonzales in Chicago on June 15, the start of the summer campaign. Photo: Jim Young/AFP/Getty

The surprising endurance of the U.S. student anti-gun violence movement is usually traced to the February murder of 17 teens and teachers in Parkland, FL., and the rage of a tight group of hard-edged, culture-wise classmates there.

The long-term future impact of their campaign, if any — such as whether there will be a broader "Parkland generation" with an important legacy — can't yet be known. But there already are signs of a Parkland effect.

  • The movement, called March for Our Lives, has swollen to include youth from many of the nation's major cities, driven by grief and anger over a two-decade failure to secure their safety, and determined to stop the bloodletting. (See this post)
  • They befriended one another along a 59-day bus journey through two dozen states, ending Sunday, and now have fanned out back home.
  • Their explicit aim: to bulk up typically anemic youth voting, and in November oust national and state lawmakers who they say are tools of the National Rifle Association, their stated foe.

Early data suggest they are having an impact both on laws and on voter registration.

  • Tom Bonier, CEO of TargetSmart, a political consultancy, says a survey of 39 states shows a surge of youth voter registration.
  • The most dramatic shift is in Pennsylvania, a battleground state: In the 75 days prior to Parkland, people younger than 30 were 45% of all new registered voters there. But in the 75 days afterward, they were 61.4%. If history holds, these new registrants will vote Democrat 2-1, says Bonier.
  • Since Parkland, some 50 new gun laws have been passed across the country, including in 14 states with Republican governors, according to Pew. "They have turned tragedy into a civic state of mind," Bonier tells Axios. "Suddenly, younger people are forced to care about who their elected officials are."

The bottom line: The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High students and their national network have animated U.S. politics. They are well-funded, raising at least $5.7 million between a GoFundMe campaign and $2 million from Hollywood personalities. To the extent they are able to mobilize youth on election day, they could decide numerous close races.

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