Students attending the Conservative Political Action Conference this week said they feel marginalized and bullied by peers at school who support gun control, McClatchy's DC Bureau reported.
“Not liking guns is a millennial thing, it’s the cool thing to be against guns,” said Justin Vaughn, 17, who attends a Maryland High School. Vaughn, a Second Amendment supporter, told McClatchy News he feels like he is on the “wrong side” of the gun control debate.
How did students feel at CPAC?
Vaughn was relieved to be around other like-minded conservative students from across the nation during the CPAC meeting Friday at National Harbor, Maryland.
“This is like the only place I’ve seen where kids are on my side,” Vaughn said.
Many peers at his school view his pro-Second Amendment views as: “I’m supporting killers, when I’m really supporting people who want to protect the Constitution.”
Vaughn’s comments come as student survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, have launched a very visible national campaign to support gun control. The students have become a powerful force, rallying many young people across the nation to support their cause. The Valentine’s Day shooting left 17 dead at the school.
Liberty Fuchs, 19, of Los Angeles, told McClatchy she strongly empathizes with the Florida students. But she questions if their tactics are alienating others who are sympathetic toward what the students went through. Fuchs cited social media comments that imply support for gun rights is akin to supporting school shootings.
“It’s so upsetting to hear them say you’re either for gun control or dead kids,” she said. “I don’t question their motives, of course they want to do something, and it’s been so powerful, so strong. But to turn it into an attack on the right wing? It’s like the feeling when you get bullied in high school because you believe in something different.”
What about college campuses?
Jacob Thomas, a 20-year-old student at Germanna Community College in Fredericksburg, Virginia, said he feels his opinions on gun rights are being silenced.
“You can’t express that opinion, especially on college campuses,” he told McClatchy News.
The students are standing up for their beliefs, despite a growing group of peers who are planning campus walkouts and other protests against gun violence.
“The Second Amendment is what we’re protecting,” said Abby Brinkman, 22, a senior at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, told McClatchy News.
“People have been so quick to turn on gun owners rather than smart solutions,” she added.
Eric Folkerts, 20, a freshman University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, told McClatchy that he believes the Florida students are “victims being used as pawns in a way to advance a political agenda.”
“They’re 16, 17, 18, the reality is they really don’t know what they’re talking about,” he said. “Just because you go through a tragedy doesn’t mean you know the issues, the policy and the legislation.”