I Was Old Enough To Watch My Friends Die, So Don’t Say I’m Too Young To Talk About Guns
For the second year in a row, Bustle is bringing you Rule Breakers, a celebration of women and non-binary individuals who defy expectations at every turn — and are making the world a better place for it. As a lead-up to our Rule Breakers 2019 issue launching Aug. 27, we’re bringing back some of our favorite pieces by and about those who refuse to do what they’re told. Because challenging the status quo isn't just a once-a-year thing, it's an ongoing mission. These stories prove it.
I’ve grown up in a time where I turn on the news every morning and I see mass shootings. I see horrible things happening and I think, much like other people, I've grown accustomed to it. My name is Lauren Hogg, and I’m 15 years old. People have always told me that one of the most important lessons to learn in life is how to get back up after being knocked down. After what I’ve gone through and what my friends have gone through, I think I’m learning that right now.
Like I say in my book Never Again, I was born after Columbine. It’s really unfortunate that it took something like the shooting at my school for me to realize that this isn’t OK. What I went through really inspired me to fight the gun lobby, and it’s really important for me to fight back with love, not with hate. Because I lost four friends that day.
Whether you’re Dana Loesch from the NRA, or whether you’re me, or my brother David, or Emma González, something we all have in common as humans is empathy and love. Using love instead of fear tactics, like so many do — including the gun lobby — I think that’s really powerful because it’s harder to do.
A few days after the shooting, I woke up to my phone buzzing and going off and dinging. I was like, "What is going on?" So I looked at my phone, and on my Instagram there were all these people who were writing horrific stuff. I looked on their pages, and it was just full of hate. I looked at what they were writing about me — it would be a picture with me and my dog, and they would be like, “Oh my god what a horrible person. Your whole family is going to hell. You’re a slut,” and all this stuff.
I was just kind of angry, and I hate the fact that I was so angry at that moment. But at the same time, I’m appreciative of my anger, because it’s what prompted me to send out that tweet to Melania Trump. It fueled my fire. It’s what kick-started me, because I was so numb at the time with everything that happened. That one push of anger was the catalyst to me becoming an activist.
Between me and David, I’m the really diplomatic one on Twitter, honestly. He thinks of posting stupid stuff sometimes, so I always check over it. When we were still in D.C. after March for Our Lives, we started getting all of these texts from our friends that Laura Ingraham had said something about David. And that time he was like, “Help me, how do I deal with this?”
I felt that the tables had turned in a way, because growing up, David’s always been that big-brother figure. He’s always been the one who protects me. But at the same time, I felt like because he’d done this my whole life, it was my responsibility. It was my turn to protect him.
"If I’m old enough to be shot in my school ... I’m old enough to talk about guns."
I couldn’t believe that an adult who has a TV show with so many people that listen to her would be so unthoughtful or so immature as to post something like that. It really showed me that adults aren’t all that we think they are. When we think of leaders, I think of adults. But we need to think of leaders as people. We need to think of them as just like us.
People say you become the people you surround yourself with. I think of my friends as leaders. I think of my parents as leaders. I think of my teachers as leaders. I don’t think I would say I’m a leader yet. But with my friends and my family that I surround myself with, and my friends in March for Our Lives that I’m constantly around, I think someday I will become one.
If you look at who the country looks at as leaders — politicians and presidents — we don’t think of those people as leaders. We think of them as our allies. We think of them as our equals. I think that’s the reason why none of us really feel like we’re leaders. We’re just normal teenage kids trying to make the world a better one than the one we came into. We’re just trying to save peoples' lives. We’re trying to make sure that nobody else has friends, a mother, a brother, a sister, who dies or gets injured died because of senseless gun violence.
I’ve had so many people come up to me and say, “You’re too young to be talking about gun reform. You’re too young to be talking about mental health policy." When they tell me this, I simply respond with the fact that if I’m old enough to be shot in my school, if my friends are old enough to not be here because of gun violence, I’m old enough to talk about guns.
This summer, March for Our Lives is going on a Road to Change tour and we’re going across the country to over 70 stops in 20 states. We're hoping that we’ll make the change or the people that come after us will make the change so no kids like them, no adults, have to be taken because of gun violence. I think that’s what pushes us every single day.
I keep doing what I do despite all the hate, because, to be frank, I have friends that no longer can. I have friends that will never get to do the things that we talked about. We had conversations about going to college, having families, living lives, where we’re going to live when we’re 20, who we’re going to date. And they’re never going to be able to do these things.
I know if I was in their position, and they were in my position today, they would be fighting for me. So I feel like it’s my responsibility to fight for them and to ensure that no other tears have to fall because of this.
As told to Celia Darrough. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.