Kris Brown has never seen the energy and support behind gun control reach this level.
Students are staging walkouts. Businesses are limiting gun sales. And politicians are voicing support for legislation that would have seemed unimaginable a month ago.
Brown, co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said that in the weeks since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the gun control advocacy organization has swelled with support. Since the Feb. 14 shooting, she said, 18 new chapters have emerged nationwide, joining the more than 100 that already existed. The Brady Campaign is helping to organize "March for Our Lives" rallies across the country on March 24 that will call for more gun control laws.
Brown, 49, spoke with the Los Angeles Times about the student uprising, the National Rifle Association and gun control legislation that could pass in the weeks ahead. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Why are you more optimistic now?
A: The debate that's going on right now is different from what we've seen before, and the momentum is different. After Sandy Hook (the 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.), I think the nation was appalled. Congress attempted to pass legislation that did not go anywhere. I think that many Americans felt that after the slaughter of innocent children in a school, the idea that Congress didn't do anything at all about it made them feel very defeated about the prospect for meaningful change in this country.
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The high school kids -- many of whom were students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas -- who are speaking out and continuing to share their thoughts and voices feel very much that this country has let them down. That's what we're hearing over and over again. And the demands for change that they're making aren't just for small fixes to the system. They want it all. And I think that's really inspiring people to rethink why the rules are set up this way. Why is it that they're set up and designed to protect gun manufacturers with no real internalization of the cost of human lives?
I think they've really sparked something, and we're seeing that even in the political commentary. We have people like Lindsey Graham, even Ted Cruz on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," talking about measures related to more regulations of guns. That is unique and new.
Q: So the students have made a difference?
A: I really do think they sparked something that is the momentum toward a real change. I think they're the catalyst for the change. I think when you have people who have no interest except their own self-preservation and safety, who can speak with an authentic and both youthful and adult-like voice, that's powerful.