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Parkland Shooting Survivor Ryan Deitsch Reacts To Midterm Results


Among those working to turn out young voters yesterday - Ryan Deitsch. He's a survivor of February's school shooting in Parkland, Fla. Deitsch hid in a closet to survive. And in the wake of that, he and some of his classmates have turned to politics and made gun control their big issue for these midterms. Ryan Deitsch joins me now from Parkland. Hey there.


KELLY: You - I mentioned you've made gun control the centerpiece of your activism. What kind of progress do you feel like you made specifically on that issue? Do you feel like you got traction?

DEITSCH: Well, I mean, if you've been looking at the state legislatures, we've made over 60 laws through us and our partners all in the name of gun safety legislation. And we are not stopping now. It doesn't matter who's in charge of the legislature. We are still putting down our beliefs. We are still putting exactly what we want to see happen because we know it will make Americans safer.

KELLY: And how does that play out among people your age? You're 18 now. Is that right? You just graduated from Parkland.

DEITSCH: Yes, I just graduated. And among my age group, I can tell you that there is a lot of distrust in the way that the government does things. We are a generation that likes to see things happen quickly, and when it doesn't, it just becomes more and more infuriating. But that doesn't mean we're going to let up.

KELLY: What have you learned about trying to get fellow teenagers and 20-somethings out? There's often a disconnect between young people saying they're really fired up about an issue or about politics writ large and then actually registering to vote and turning up at the polls on the day.

DEITSCH: I can tell you it's a little ignorant to only put it on young people because it's Americans in general. As you can tell, in the 2016 election, the largest demographic wasn't Republican, wasn't Democrat, wasn't independent. It was non-voter.

KELLY: Although the numbers do show that younger voters tend not to show up in the same proportions as their parents or grandparents do. And I wonder what you've learned about - how do you shift that?

DEITSCH: Well, I mean, that - those statistics have a variety of reasons as to why that's the case - first off, habit. Habit is formed over several elections, and 18-year-olds don't have legal right to several elections to gain that habit - as well as the fact that they are moving constantly. I mean, for college students, they move dorms almost every year or every semester. So every time, you have to re-register. You have to make sure that's all correct and proper, and the government doesn't make it easy for us. I mean, in Florida, they had to fight a Supreme Court case to allow college campuses to vote. And it's a shame. But all of this is, in my opinion, voter suppression. And the way we fight against it is show them what - the power their voice has.

KELLY: I mean, it occurs to me as I'm speaking to you that you're 18. This was the first election you could vote in.


KELLY: Can - I mean, what a road you've walked between February and now.

DEITSCH: Yep (laughter).

KELLY: What was going through your mind as you were actually casting that ballot yesterday?

DEITSCH: Well, I casted the ballot in early voting. But when I did that, I knew exactly what I was thinking. I was thinking about which candidates I felt personally that would help the state, that really had plans that would help not only my cause but the causes of so many others.

KELLY: May I ask you the basic momentum question - because as horrific as what happened at your high school is, do you worry that as it recedes farther into the past, into history, that it will be hard to keep people mobilizing around this issue in the way that they have in these last eight, nine months?

DEITSCH: The sad part about America is that we are not short on shootings, as you can tell in just the previous few weeks before this election. There were shootings in Pittsburgh. There was a shooting in North Carolina. There was a shooting in Florida. There was a shooting in Utah. There were many other shootings that I cannot name off the top of my head. But these happen all the time. These events continue to happen. And the American people and especially the young people being gunned down in classrooms are just sick and tired of it. And we want to see real leadership in this country. We want to see the general welfare upkept. And right now, it is not being so.

KELLY: That's Ryan Deitsch, political activist and survivor of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Ryan Deitsch, thank you.

DEITSCH: Thank you.

KELLY: Best of luck with the college applications, too.

DEITSCH: (Laughter) Thanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF MY EDUCATION'S "DEEP CUT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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