29 min read



MM: So let’s start with Eli. Tell us about you, so your name, your age, your school, and your interests besides guns

EC: I’m Eli Counce. I’m a senior at Lakeridge High School in the Lake Oswego School District. I love my fellow students most of all. I moved to Oregon when I was thirteen years old, in seventh grade, and it was one of the most amazing changes that I’ve ever made. And for one specific reason, it was because of the students here. And so I grew an attachment and a passion to the people in my school and when I found out about the things that were happening to students around the nation and the fear that peers inside of my district were feeling... it hit home.

MM: Alright, we’ll talk a little bit more about that on the next question. Penelope, how about you? Tell us your name, age, school, any interests.

PS: Okay, my name is Penelope Spurr. I’m seventeen years old and I’m a senior at Lake Oswego High School, which is also in the Lake Oswego School District.

MM: And are rivals! I’m just gonna point that out.

EC: [Laughs]

PS: Yeah, yeah, we are rivals. We hate each other.

MM: Yes. Except for you guys don’t hate each other.

PS: Yeah, actually after this interview we’re taking it outside.

MM & EC: [laugh]

EC: Oh yeah.

PS: But outside of activism and advocacy, I enjoy writing and creating art. I love hiking, which in part why I’m so grateful to live in Oregon.

MM: You moved here from New Jersey, right?

PS: [laughs] Yeah, so it was a pretty drastic change.

MM: Not gonna get down on New Jersey, but Oregon is good.

PS: It is a positive change in my opinion. You know I love spending time with my family and friends.

MM: I’m gonna jump back and ask Eli to add any interests besides activism.

EC: I like backpacking a lot.

PS: Oh, me too!

EC: The Pacific Crest Trail is a favorite of mine. I especially like the part of it that’s in southern California. SoCal to Whitney up to Oregon is a great place to backpack. So, the outdoors. Fishing too. And speech and debate.

MM: Awesome.

EC: Yeah I like political discourse a lot, so I like talking with people about everything.

MM: Okay, great! So the next questions, and either of you can start, when did you first get involved in gun violence prevention and activism in this area?

EC: I can start, if you want?

PS: Okay, sounds good.

MM: Cause I think it kinda started with you, right?

PS: It did.

EC: So it was my sophomore year and it was post Parkland shooting[1] and I think everyone was just in a state of shock. And people were reeling from the shooting and I know that I was among many other students who felt hopeless. But very fortunately I felt comfortable enough with one of my teachers to talk to them about political action. I said, “What’s Lakeridge’s history with political action?” And they said, “You know what, actually Lake Oswego High School is a little more politically active than we are. And while our students here, while they do a lot of individual things regarding activism, there’s not been a movement throughout the school.” And that’s when I started to brainstorm ideas of how do we get a large number of students organized behind something that I know that we all feel passionate about. So really, that was the original question for me.

MM: Okay, what about you Penelope?

PS: I can actually, like, point to two specific moments that were major changes for me in my involvement and the first was when I found out about the Parkland shooting. That was really when entered that kind of state of shock that Eli was talking about. But I didn’t know what to do. I was kind of just trying to inform myself about the details of the shooting and I was just kind of ruminating and sort of spiraling in that. But I wasn’t doing anything.

MM: That’s a pretty common thing.

PS: Right. That was kinda happening across the country, at the time. And so I felt like I was part of that and it was kind of sickening. And a few days later I was at swim practice, which is like the most unassuming place, and I was getting out of the pool, and I was getting ready to go up to the locker room to change and go home. And one of my good friends, Patrick, stopped me before I went up to the locker room and he was like, “Hey, I know that you’re really involved in politics and stuff and I’ve got this friend who’s organizing this rally in Salem, and I don’t know a lot about it, but I thought you would be interested.” And I was like, “Yes, I would love to hear about that!” And at the time my “political involvement” was just like posting things on Instagram or Facebook to my mom and all her friends who did not care.

EC & PS: [laugh]

PS: So this was a turning point because I was able to transition from those kind of… maybe less concrete forms of activism into really concrete forms of activism: literally leaving school, signing forms to leave school, going on a bus to Salem, and then protesting. And so that was kind of that moment when Patrick introduced my to Eli and we started emailing and then we met in person and then we organized the rally. And then we wrote the bill.

MM: Tel us about the rally first, and then let’s talk about the bill. So what was the rally, Eli? And what did you have to do to get it happening?

EC: The rally was kind of a last idea after many other options that I went through. So, I considered first doing a walk out. And I figured, you know, a walk out is good for making a message to administrators and to people in our community, but this is a national issue. And so my thing was how do I give my peers the biggest platform possible? How do I amplify their voices the most that I can? And so that’s when I started to talk to my administration about can we leave? Is there any way we can get student, a large number of them, to be able to go to the capital for an entire school day? Do things like, give speeches, chants, and meet with our legislators. And so they were supportive in the way that they said, “Yeah, you can do that, but it’s up to you as far as the buses, getting everyone to go, getting the papers signed.”

MM: “And we’re not gonna pay for it.”

EC: Yeah. But you know the community really came together, the rally I think made students’ voices heard and--maybe Penelope can touch on this more--but we had students from a lot of schools in the district actually giving speeches in front of our legislators and then going and hearing from Kate Brown[2], from Rob Wagner[3], Andrea Salinas[4].

MM: Didn’t you also do a kickstarter campaign to get the buses paid for?

EC: Yeah, that’s where the community was really such a huge part of this. I mean, what did it take, a week? Not even that?

PS: It took less than 24 hours.

MM: Wow.

PS: That’s what Lakeridge did. Lake Oswego, there was a parent who approached us and offered to cover our entire cost, which was incredible.

MM: Yeah. I’m gonna jump in and say that I was in Salem the day you guys showed up and I was there with Moms Demand Action[5] cause we were having a rally there. We were going down to watch the signing of the bill and to be a part of it. And I remember it was like every other Salem trip I’ve been on, where it’s me and like 20 moms and a bunch of gun people protesting against us. And you know a few legislators walking around. And I’m like, “Oh, typical day. We’re down here doing our thing, la la la.” And then all of the sudden busses pull up.

EC & PS: [laugh]

PS: Hoards of children!

MM: We didn’t know they were coming!

EC: Wonderful!

MM: And I had never been to Salem where bus loads of teenagers came-- and you guy came pouring out of the buses and I almost cried. We were like, “What is going on? The teenagers are rising up!”

EC & PS: [laugh]

MM: You guys filled the courtyard, and there was so much more energy. All of the sudden is was like, “Oh, it’s their movement. Look at this, they’re taking over.” And after that things in Salem were different. Every time we go down things are different down there because I feel like you guys really, I don’t know, just showing up, on a school day, you guys left school, you rented buses and hundreds of you came! It was crazy! So, I just want you to know, from the outside perspective-- that’s how I found you, cause I was like, “Who are these kids?”

EC & PS: [laugh]

MM: And then I started googling and I’m like, “Oh, wow!” And afterwards more stuff happened, but I was like, “Who did this?” So, anyway. Alright, so, take it from where you showed up in Salem.

PS: I also just wanted to add something that’s interesting. Two things. One: because we go to public school there are certain limitations that we have. We can’t get any funding-- the school can’t get involved in any sort of political message or advocacy. So they would sanction the event, but they couldn’t do anything else. So then from there we had to do some kind of organizing.

MM: But at least they let you do it, because a lot of schools wouldn’t let you do it.

PS: Yeah. And the second thing that was important was prior to the rally our school district had seen a spike in racism, antisemitism, islamophobia, homophobia in the two years prior to that. And so we had been having a lot of walkouts. And it kind of pains me to say that they were becoming a bit too normalized and people were using them as just an excuse to get out of class. And they seemed to lose their meaning. So, maybe we weren’t talking this through at the time, but in hindsight, I think actually going to the capital to protest in person really made a change in people’s sort of understanding and internalization of what they were fighting for.

MM: It’s different than a walk out.

PS: It is.

EC: Yeah.

MM: And it’s different even then a march. Going to Salem is a different thing.

PS: To talk to the legislator that is representing you and your family one-on-one, face-to-face, is an incredible and powerful experience.

MM: Yeah. And to know they’re the ones that are making the laws. Like, those are the people that are voting on the laws that impact all of us all the time. And that’s a human, right there.

PS: Yeah. And it’s meaningful not just for you, the protestor or the rally person to meet the legislator, but for the legislator to meet you, to meet future voters, or current voters.

MM: I’m gonna say that in the book, when I interviewed politicians, one of the main things they said that kids could do to be impactful is to meet their legislators face-to-face. So whether that’s going to your capital or going to a town hall meeting, any face-to-face time that you can get is way more impactful for the politicians then like writing a letter or protesting.

PS: I would also just add… I don’t know if I’ve ever said this before, or recognized this, but there was a certain level of success that we had when we visited the capital. I think the amount of students that we brought there was pretty representative of this common sentiment, frustration. But there also was a little bit of an aspect of failure to it. We didn’t change anything concretely that day. But that is what lead us to that long term change and that what I’ve, over time, sort of recognized a bit more. That, from that day we realized that protesting and speeches would bring us the pathos that we needed, but from there on we needed to look much deeper. That was just kind of scratching the surface, that first layer of the movement. And then we had to sort of delve into the inner-workings of the legislature.

MM: How things happen.

EC: Yeah, I think what you’re saying is that there was a lot of passion, especially on that day, you could feel it in the air, but funneling the passion into things that really make a difference is-- it’s challenging.

PS: Right.

EC: And I would also add, one thing I remember being particularly challenged by that was not really a failure, but could’ve been better was the teachers who went. So the school, part of their thing about not being able to sanction anything to do with politics was that they couldn’t let the teachers take a paid day off[6].

PS: Take a paid day off or even take a stand, they had to be purely chaperones.

EC: Some of them actually used sick days. I don’t know if you knew that, but a couple of the teachers there had to use their sick days to be there. And there were teachers who I know were really influential to at least the Lakeridge part of this movement who couldn’t go simply for that reason.

PS: Yeah, so there were several adults who contributed to that movement and they definitely sacrificed for just that day, and for the months that followed.

MM: Why don’t we segway into talking about the digging deeper. Once you were done with the protest, which was awesome, and you realized, “Oh wow, there’s a lot more to be done if we actually want to make change.” What steps did you take after that? What were your next actions?

EC: We started out by reaching out to students who really made an impact at the rally. I don’t know about you, but I was really moved by a lot of the speeches that those students gave.

PS: Mm-hm.

EC: And also when we met with some representatives and some of their representatives, the students, a few of them were really passionate. I can’t remember which legislator was voting on the Concealed Carrier Reciprocity Act[7] that year.

PS: Kurt Schrader[8]

EC: Kurt Schrader, that’s it.

PS: Congressman Kurt Schrader.

EC: We started out by reaching out to those students who I felt had a lot of passion and could really dedicate time and energy to the movement. And so consolidating those forces, so to speak, was my first step.

MM: And what was the group called that you formed?

PS: Students. For.

EC&PS: Change![9]

MM: Students for Change! So what did you guys work on?

PS: So it actually looked like this. A week or so after the march we met at my house. And we all just kinda sat in my living room in silence for a few minutes and we were like, “What are we going to talk about?” And then we just kinda had to dive into it and we were like, “Okay, what do we want to do, because that wasn’t enough.” We were like, “Ah, that was great! It was so amazing to see everyone there! Yes! Empowerment!” It was great to get everyone in the same room and once we got everyone in the same room, we had to articulate what our goals were, what our motivation was to keep going. After the march we also saw this wave of opposition from the far right. So there was an aspect of solidarity when we met afterwards. So it was just emotionally a pretty heavy meeting.

MM: What did the opposition look like? Were you guys getting trolled online? Were having people actually show up at stuff?

EC: It was everything. I mean, Rob Wagner had someone--

PS: Well, that was after the bill.

EC: Oh, yes.

PS: The opposition to the bill was much stronger.

MM: Of course, cause you’re actually taking political action that could impact people with guns.

PS: Right.

MM: A bunch of teenagers protesting is not gonna probably scare them.

PS: You know, there were a few angry comments online, but we could get past that. And also at the time our personal information wasn’t publicized, but now it is so.

MM: How did it get publicized?

PS: Just articles that we wrote online. It just kind of got out.

EC: Yeah. We must have given permission to someone at some point to use our names.

PS: Yeah, you know when people are writing articles about you and their like, “What’s your first and last name? And where are you from? And what school do you go to?” And we were like “Ahhhh.”

EC: Yeah

PS: Anyway, so that’s kind of what it looked like, when we met at my house after. Midway through we got a text from Rob Wagner--or a call or something--and he was like, “Hey, can I come by?” And we were like, “Sure.” So he just walks through the front door.

EC: In his Saturday wear.

PS: Right, and he sits down in the corner next to my mom.

MM: And who is Rob Wagner for people who don’t know.

PS: Senator Rob Wagner is our district representative. So, he goes and he sits in the corner next to my mom and they’re kinda talking about options. And the rest of us are talking about our goals.

MM: So all the kids were there?

PS: All the kids were there. So we were talking about, do we want to start clubs? And what would those clubs look like? But wait, we’re still not actually getting any kind of concrete change. And so then, Senator Wagner just interrupts the conversation and he’s like, “What if you guys wrote legislation?” We’re like… We were kinda of---

EC: A little bit taken aback.

PS: Unaware that we were even capable of doing that.

MM: You guys were still sophomores, right?

PS: Yeah, we were sophomores.

MM: Sixteen.

PS: Yeah, that came as a little bit of a shock.

EC: Mm-hm.

MM: Like, “Can we really do that?”

PS: Right. So we asked him what that would look like and he began to describe the different options. We could write a ballot measure that would then be included in the next election packet, but that was too soon, that was a month or two out. And then he suggested that we write a bill. And that sounded really daunting at first. It sounded like something we just could not do as students. But over the next few months we researched using--there are a lot of resources online, many of which I’m sure that you’ve used to write the book.

MM: There’s a lot online.

PS: Giffords[10]. Everytown[11].

MM: Yeah there’s a lot of good websites of people doing research and investigating what will work to fix the problem.

PS: Yeah. There was also a lot of precedent. New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Colorado, California.

MM: Yeah. State’s with models of what to do.

EC: Exactly.

PS: Yeah. They all had implemented what then was put into SB501[12].

MM: So you had state models you were able to draw from.

PS: Oh yeah. What I distinctly remember doing is sitting at my kitchen table on a Saturday morning drinking coffee and just copying and pasting penal codes into the google doc that then became the bill.

MM: Wow.

PS: And legislative council emailed us with thirty/ thirty-five questions and ultimately asked if our bill was constitutional and it was a pretty easy answer because everything had already been passed in other states! And so when you have that advantage of precedent, you can easily confirm that kind of thing. There was no uncertainty there.

MM: That’s awesome.

PS: The only uncertainty was whether we could pass it.

MM: Yeah. So why don’t you tell us briefly what happened once you wrote the bill and kinda where things are at now?

EC: So one we wrote the bill, it was kind of a--well a few things happened. The publications that happened around the bill, all the media, was a little bit crazy for us as students, and then also the conversations that we had with representatives and just watching our bill hit the floor. It was really anxiety inducing.

MM: Did they vote on it on the floor?

PS: No.

MM: Okay, yeah, it didn’t make it that far.

EC: But watching it track--most of it was like, “Okay, is this even gonna get past the judiciary committee?” was the big thing.

MM: So you got to learn the whole process.

EC: Exactly.

MM: All the things that a bill goes through.

EC: And you hear about these things with every other bill and you actually start to talk about them with your own. It gets--

MM: It becomes very real.

EC: Like a long-term football game, you’re always checking to see the score.

MM: So it didn’t make it to the floor.

EC: No.

PS: No.

MM: But I’ve heard that pieces got pulled out and are now being put into other--You basically introduced every possible awesome idea that they could do and then now they’re like, “Okay, what can we really get passed?” And they’re pulling pieces out and voting on different pieces of it. Like if we got your bill passed, we’d be one of the awesome A states in the country. And instead we’re gonna do little pieces here and there until we can get it done.

PS: Slow change.

EC: I think SB501 was like, here are the best of the best practices that we could implement. It’s great that all of these pieces are being picked out, but, you know, from a student perspective, we want this to be the model state that other states are looking at for their best practices.

MM: I really love that you guys went for the best. Like, you really went for here is the best we can do, and this is what we want. We are students. We deserve this. You didn’t go, “Oh, we want this one little thing.” Let the stupid grownups do that. This is what you want! This is what we all want. So I personally was super impressed with the bigness of your bill and the comprehensiveness of your bill. Cause I’m like, “Wow, what if?” It was dreamy.

PS: I was dreamy, which is kinda too bad.

MM: It doesn’t mean it’s not gonna happen. We could reach that tipping point at any time, you never know.

PS: Right.

MM: I’d rather shoot big.

EC: It’s about turning the needle, right?

MM: Exactly, yep, exactly. So, the priorities that were in your bill, are those still your top priorities for gun reform in Oregon? Are those still the things that you would like to see happen?

PS: No.

MM: No?

PS: No.

MM: Alright.

PS: Most of them are.

MM: Most of them?

PS: Actually, yeah. I mean, I would like to see every single one of those priorities passed.

MM: Do you have an order of triage now?

PS: But I have a different order of triage.

MM: Okay.

PS: I mean, the most controversial part of our bill was the limit on magazine capacity.

EC: Yeah. Or was it ammo?

PS: It was on ammunition that a person could buy at one time. Which was 20 rounds in one month.

MM: That was the most controversial part?

EC: Yeah, even though we had an exception for firing ranges, people were still…

MM: They want their bullets. They want to have an unlimited number of bullets.

PS: I don’t know if I would change that though. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to implement that. I don’t think any of them are unreasonable.

MM: But that might not be the first thing you fight for. That might not be top of the bill.

PS: Personally, I’ve been doing a lot of research on ERPO[13] and extreme risk law. I know that it’s one of the most effective ways to reduce gun violence and I would hope that we could extend--we have an ERPO right now, but it is actually quite limiting who can report someone who’s at risk of hurting themselves or others. We only allow family members, household members, and law enforcement to report people. Whereas Hawaii allows coworkers and medical professionals to report and New York allows school administrators to report.

MM: So we have the narrowest version of that law.

PS: We have the bare minimum. I used to say in some of our interviews that we are in some sense ahead of the game because we have an ERPO as of 2016, when in fact we are not ahead of the game. We’re accomplishing the bare minimum. So I would strengthen our ERPO law and I would also limit magazine capacity size. I would ban assault weapons. I don’t know why that--

MM: Why is that hard to pass.

PS: That is constantly mind-boggling.

MM: It’s constantly mind-boggling.

EC: How challenging getting that--I mean, you propose that to anyone who talks about legislation and…

MM: Yeah. It’s cause so many people own them.

PS: Mm-hm

MM: It amazing how many people own those, which is--

PS: Scary

MM: Terrifying

EC: It’s terrifying.

PS: But to answer your question, I would keep all of them.

MM: Okay. Good. So would I.

EC: Yeah I would keep them. I really liked our permit to purchase, personally.

PS: Oh my gosh.[14]

MM: Tell us about the permit to purchase.

PS: Permit to purchase! That was like my child! That was my favorite.

EC: Permit to purchase was really successful--in Massachusetts I believe, specifically--in reducing gun violence. And actually it wasn’t in effect anymore and the gun violence statistics changed drastically. I mean if you looked at a timeline of gun violence in Massachusetts you could literally just pick out where the law had been in affect based--

MM: On gun violence.

EC: It was so obvious to me. So I thought our permit to purchase was really similar to Massachusetts’.

MM: What were you asking for with the permit to purchase? What did people have to have?

PS: It was essentially a more thorough background check. There were maybe five points to it, the most notable of which was firearm practice requirement.

MM: Training.

PS: Have to attend a training, an in person training, was really critical, and that’s what set it apart. And surprisingly enough that’s what set people off.

MM: Wow.

EC: And that had to be certified. Some states that had permit to purchases that was required but often got slipped by because no certification was required. But with this you actually had to check--with the Sheriff I believe--so that you could get your permit updated. That was a big part of it--that I could look at our legislation and say, “This line right here specifically is going to make me feel less anxious and I know it’s going to make my peers feel less anxious.” So to have something to point to, a beacon of hope, was powerful for me.

PS: Yeah, permit to purchase was critical.

EC: Yeah, it was a big part.

PS: In many of our conversations with adult advocates who have been part of the movement for ten-twenty years, they would mention permit to purchase as a top priority, so it quickly became ours too.

MM: Okay, speaking of adults, who have been your favorite adult allies in your activism? Here is Oregon or nationally, do you have any people you could point to where your like, “That person was super helpful.” I mean, obviously, was it Wagner?

PS: Wagner was massively helpful.

MM: Anybody else that you guys worked with or talked to where you’re like, “That person is a great gun sense candidate,” or?

PS: I admire different people for the different actions that they took and the sacrifices that they made for us. So Wagnor I admire his willingness to sponsor our bill, which put him in physical danger. I mean, someone showed up to his house.

MM: Oh my god.

PS: And dropped a package on his front porch. Yeah. So you know, people were publishing his address online. So I admire his willingness and his bravery. He and Andrea Salinas were the only two legislators who required police to walk them to and from work everyday.

MM: Wow.

PS: On top of Senator Wagnor, I also have just so greatly appreciated Penny Okomoto’s work with Ceasefire Oregon[15]. I’ve been working with her this summer to research ERPO and to create some media for the organization, just to work on translating data into more digestible sort of media, much like Giffords or Everytown. Anyway, she is so persistent.

MM: Yeah, been in it a long time too.

PS: She has been fighting for this.

MM: Kinda by herself.

PS: Yeah. She’s just like one of the strongest women that I know, and to see a strong independent woman fighting in this movement.

MM: And on her own, cause she was before Moms Demand Action, she was before-- How long has ceasefire been around?

PS: Since 1999-2000.

MM: Yeah, that’s a really long time.

PS: And I would ask her like, “Why do you keep doing this?” And she’s like, “Change is slow, but it’s happening.”

MM: Yeah, it is happening.

PS: And so she just gave me that sense of hope and ambition and that strength that I needed.

MM: Good. On the other side of things, what have been your biggest frustration with this activism that you have been involved in?

EC: I would definitely say the response that rural Oregon has had. And that’s part of the media thing, the social media thing. That’s my single biggest frustration, because the issue that I have is that there are so many kids in Students for Change who didn’t sign up to have their names put into media articles or to be associated with a lot of the danger, I mean frankly danger, that surrounds this issue. And so to go online and to make students feel unsafe--

MM: It’s pretty evil.

EC: It’s adding to this problem. I mean, there’s a response because we feel unsafe.

MM: Yeah. And they know it too. I think people are just trying to scare people away. Which is what happened in the civil rights movement too. They just really tried to threaten people and scare people to get them to stop.

EC: So the scare tactics, yeah, single biggest frustration.

MM: How about you, Penelope?

PS: This might sound a little more abstract, but as I’ve talked to more and more students who are involved in the movement, for different reasons, I’ve become more frustrated by how polarized the movement is between students in urban areas who are affected by gun violence on seemingly a daily basis, who have been affected since they were children. It seems like there are those students, and then there are predominantly white students from suburban areas, privileged areas, who rally when there’s a mass shooting. And there’s kind of that dichotomy. And it’s unfortunate and I really hope that we can close that gap. So, when I went to this institute[16] over the summer I had an opportunity to meet a lot of these students and talk about how suburban students and white students could be better allies. And those were really important, sometimes uncomfortable, discussions, but there’s definitely an aspect of equity and fairness to the movement.

MM: I thought the Parkland kids did a really good job of bringing that into the conversation right away. When I read about some of the things they were doing to reach out and to amplify voices that have not been heard because they’re not white, I was really impressed because, you know, they got a lot on their plate already. I think you’re right. I think the movement is not gonna have as much traction until we bring everybody in, cause it’s all the same issue it just affects people differently. Nazari[17] said that in the book. She’s like, you know, “It’s not a black or white issue. It’s a gun issue.” We all need to be fighting the same fight. Dividing is just gonna make it harder.

EC: You know one thing that--so Lakeridge had gun violence scare last year and I really saw that stark contrast right after the gun violence scare. Luckily there was an opportunity after that actually allowed me to get those students to realize that that’s the anxiety that people who live in those communities feel every single day. During that gun violence scare a student brought a firearm onto the campus in a car. We got put into a lockdown, really had no idea what was going on, so of course rumours were circulating like crazy. Everybody was pretty freaked out. And I had students approach me who hadn’t approached me since the rally, at Salem, and they said, “That was really freaky. I wanna get involved again.” And luckily it was right before Law Day[18] when we could actually go meet some students from The Bus Project[19] and actually learn about some of the policy and some of the activism and advocacy things that they could be doing. So it was a good opportunity, but at the same time it was frustrating that it took that anxiety for those students to be interested. I think there’s a real lack of empathy for those communities right now, unfortunately some in our schools. So, I agree with Penelope wholeheartedly.

MM: That was a great answer. And I’m just gonna say, for the record that I’m really sorry that you guys have had to deal with threats and scary people making you feel unsafe. It really sucks. It’s probably the part of this that makes me the most angry and frustrated. I get so enraged when I think about kids trying to make change and you know fearing for their lives from crazy grownups. It’s like, are you kidding me? So, anyway, I just wanna tell you that I’m proud of you for being so brave. Cause I’m scared, like bringing this book out, I’m like, okay. Here it comes. I’m getting ready. But you guys have been dealing with this for a while now. So, if you could snap your fingers and make one national change with guns, what would it be? Like, Boom it’s done! Be your dream nation-wide.

PS: Well, um.

MM: Maybe after the election it’ll happen, so who knows.

PS: That’s true. Maybe… I mean this is like a pretty impulsive thing, so I’m just sort of entertaining that concept, but maybe to buy back, collect, all automatic--

MM: Semi-automatic and automatic weapons.

PS: Yeah. All military grade, military style weapons.

MM: Yeah. It’s been done in other places. There’s precedent.

PS: Yeah, but to do that on a national level… would be quote unquote “the dream.”

MM: How about you, Eli?

EC: I think my answer is gonna involve a little bit more magic.

MM: Okay, let’s hear it! If there was magic involved--

EC: If there was magic involved

MM: There would be no guns. They would’ve never been invented.

EC: [Laughing] Yes, exac-- No, no. On a serious note, I can see how, to be empathetic with those people who’ve pushed back on us, with a lot of rural Oregonians, I think that, I can understand how living in individualistic, kind of roughin-it lifestyle would lead one to have the views that they do, I suppose. I don’t think that it’s an excuse for how they express them, or the aggression, but if we could make those people live in our days and our anxiety for even an hour, a day, a short amount of time, I think that it would build so much more empathy between all of us. Because right now I think on both sides there’s sort of a lack of empathy. I think especially for them it’s hard to reach back into those high school days, when--

MM: Or they’ve never lived in a place like this. They’ve lived in a place where it’s not like this.

EC: Exactly. And where it wasn’t all over and surrounding them and bombarding them every single week.

MM: They weren’t having lock down drills.

EC: Exactly, so to some degree I get it, but to another degree I just wanna say…[sighs]

MM: Come be in my body for a while.

EC: Exactly! Come watch us, come see what fear we live in. It’s… yeah, so I would do that.

MM: Yeah. So Eli wants a freaky friday situation.

EC: Exactly, I do. Switch bodies with all the farmers.

MM: I think those are both great snap-your-finger dreams to have. I like the magic. So, how do you feel about being profiled in Enough is Enough[20] and knowing that kids all over the country are going to be reading about you and what you’ve been up to?

PS: Beyond honored.

EC: Yeah.

MM: Nervous? Excited? Slightly terrified?

EC: Speechless?

PS: Again, it’s just so humbling. It just motivates me more to… I don’t know. How do I want to articulate this? It’s just such a--I’m so grateful for your work and for the fact that you’ve translated efforts into this digestible format. That’s something that I think is really really important to the movement--this is what’s been driving me the past several months and it is frustrating.

MM: There’s a lot of data.

PS: There’s a lot of really convincing and promising data on legislation, on the changes in gun violence as a result of legislation over the last few years, but it’s hard to find that data.

MM: It is.

PS: Like I have to go on JSTOR to get my data for the videos that I make[21] and it is tedious work. It is not so fun.

MM: And it’s written in really boring language that no kid is gonna read.

PS: It is, it’s like, you know, written from Harvard Med School and that’s--

MM: Yep.

EC: Behind a paywall too, sometimes.

MM: Yep, behind a paywall. I had to pay for many subscriptions to many academic papers. I’m like, “Who’s gonna do that?” No one’s gonna do that.

PS: But to now have this format--I mean the profile is great, but also what’s in between those profiles, the content, the history of the NRA, that is really critical to be people to recognize how the movement has changed, how it’s been affected by these different groups, like groups fighting for gun violence prevention and gun reform and then groups that are kind of pushing back under the semblance of gun rights. That’s really important to recognize. There’s different figures, players in this kind of game.

MM: Yeah. Great.

EC: I’d say for me, well, my political activism and advocacy career has been about amplification of student voices and so of someone reads this, a teenager or a preteen, reads this book and they’re inspired to do something. If they go and talk to their princial,l or a trusted teacher or a politically active friend, about what they can do to get involved, then I would feel so infinitely close to every student and every child who did that. Because for me that’s the ultimate win. That’s success, for me, when students get the confidence to go out and to make their voices heard and to help them do that is what drives me every day. And I hope that with this book and with the movement in general we can see a lot more of that happening. That’s just going to make me so happy. I’m so honored to be a part of that and to be able to help those students, so it feels amazing and it makes me feel close to our nation’s youth, really.

MM: I’m really honored to have you both in the book cause I’m just so impressed with all that you’ve done and I really feel like you are going to inspire so many kids. And some of those stories you might hear, but a lot of them you won’t hear and it’s like this silent ripple effect that I know is gonna happen all over the country that makes me really excited. So, having you in the book is a huge honor for me and I’m super grateful you let me do it because I know each time you put yourselves out there like this it’s a little scary and your profile grows a little bit. And I’m just really grateful that you’re willing to put yourselves out there as role models because you are role models and I hope lots of kids get inspired by you. Because if people did this is every state--imagine if there was you guys in every state and they were putting legislation forward to their state representatives! It would be very exciting. If you wanted to give one piece of advice to some kid in New Jersey, or Florida or Missouri or Texas, who picks this book up and reads about you guys and reads all the stuff about guns that they need to learn, what’s one piece of advice you would give to those kids who maybe haven’t taken any steps yet?

PS: I mean, this is gonna sound kinda cheesy, and it reminds me of those posters that I see on math teachers’ walls with inspirational--

MM: With eagles? Mountaintops?

PS: [laughs] Yeah, exactly, but… I would hope that every reader of this book would have the confidence that what they’re doing and what they’re fighting for is right even if they’re the only one in their community who is fighting for that thing. It’s at times daunting and dangerous and incredibly uncomfortable physically and emotionally to fight for this kind of change, but I think to establish this kind of national network, I just would hope that by reading our profiles--and by understanding a little bit more about our journeys through this movement--that they would understand that even if they’re along in their bubble, that they’re not alone nation-wide. That there are people like us, who only recently got involved, and we are with them. We stand in solidarity with them, as cheesy as that might sound. We’re here.

MM: Que the sunset. I like it.

PS: Que the eagle flying

MM: Que the eagle catching a fish. Alright. Eli?

EC: [sighs] You stole mine.

PS: [laughs]

EC: I think that it would be that you don’t have to feel hopeless, that your environment is not set in its way and that you have the power to change it. No matter who it is, no matter how alone you feel in your community, or in your life, you have the power to change the world. Those few days after Parkland, I was so numb and so hopeless that… I don’t know, I just don’t want any students to have to feel that way for any amount of time. I mean, I just want to be able to walk to every part of the country and to talk to them and to make them feel better. But if you’re reading these words then at least it's a good beginning and you have the resources to make that change and to talk to people in your community who maybe have similar passions and similar ideas, and to go to the library, do that research, pick up that book, and to write that bill. To do those crazy things. I mean, it starts with a simple thing like…

MM: Talking to a teacher.

EC: Exactly.

PS: Mm-hm.

MM: Asking a friend at swim practice if they want to talk to their weird political friend.

PS&EC: [laugh]

EC: Yep.

PS: Yeah.

EC: I mean so many connections that can be made, just reach out and grab at the world, and I promise that you’ll latch onto something.

PS: Yeah. And we didn’t know how to write that bill within minutes. That was…

EC: That was a long journey.

PS: It took time and it took a lot of teamwork. The combination of patience and teamwork played a huge role. So I would also hope that whoever's reading this book, if they feel alone there are people out there who care. And I would ask that they have faith in working with others and being patient with the process.

MM: The slowness of the process too?

PS: Well, there’s a little bit of frustration involved and I think that there is a certain level of aggression in the political process that I think is important and that’s why change gets made. But just being patient in working with others is really important, and being patient in making sure that you are completely informed about what you’re advocating for and that you’re equipped with the tools that you need. So I think that this book serves as one of those tools, so taking the time to read this book and equip themselves with these tools is also pretty critical.

MM: Awesome.


[1] Parkland shooting- brief explanation

[2] Governor Kate Brown

[3] Senator Rob Wagner

[4] Representative Andrea Salinas

[5] Moms Demand Action

[6] Add some detail on this?

[7] Concealed Carrier Reciprocity Act

[8] Congressman Kurt Schrader

[9] Students for Change, link to website, how to join?

[10] Giffords, link?

[11] Everytown for gun safety

[12] SB501

[13] ERPO

[14] Permit to purchase

[15] Ceasefire Oregon

[16] John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy & Research Summer Youth Institute

[17] Nazari?

[18] Law Day

[19] The Bus Project

[20] Link to website

[21] Can we link these?

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