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National Die-In Day: teens renew gun control push and honor Pulse victims

Activists are planning a protest in Washington, DC, and other cities on the second anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando.

March For Our Lives Los Angeles Sarah Morris/Getty Images
Jen Kirby is a senior foreign and national security reporter at Vox, where she covers global instability.

On June 12, 2016, a gunman opened fire at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history — until it wasn’t.

Amanda Fugleberg, 18, wanted to remember the day and what it did to her Orlando community. She had planned a visit to Washington, DC, after her high school graduation; since she was there, she figured she should do something.

That something is now a “National Die-In Day,” the next major event in gun control activism, meant to honor the victims of the Pulse shooting.

The National Die-In is scheduled to take place on the lawn of the US Capitol on June 12, starting at 10:30 am, with speeches and rallies. At noon, students will drop to the ground and lie still for 12 minutes. Fugleberg came up with the number based on statistics from the Gun Violence Archive, which lists more than 700 mass shootings since Pulse. That number, divided by 60 seconds, comes out to approximately 12 minutes.

Fugleberg worked on the plan with David Hogg, a prominent Parkland, Florida, student activist. Now dozens of fellow activists are hosting sister “die-ins” in their state capitals or city halls. Protests have been scheduled from New York to Honolulu. Activists are even hosting a “die-in” outside of Mar-a-Lago.

Fugleberg said they hope to have about 100,000 people in Washington for the die-in, with more joining in across the country. The organizers of the National Die-In Day are also encouraging people who can’t participate in a formal protest to drop down at businesses or offices of elected officials with ties to the National Rifle Association.

National Die-In Day is the latest student-led protest to call attention to gun violence and demand gun control measures. In May, a 17-year-old student brought a shotgun and a revolver to his high school in Santa Fe, Texas, and murdered 10 of his classmates and teachers. It was the deadliest school shooting since Parkland in February, where 17 people died.

Survivors of the Parkland massacre reignited a new movement for gun control, including a March for Our Lives that brought hundreds of thousands to protest in the streets of DC. The aftermath of the shooting at Santa Fe tended to follow a more familiar pattern: shock, outrage, mourning, and moving on.

But not for the teenage activists who’ve been organizing and protesting since Parkland. They’re connected through social media, ready to mobilize.

They’re also still angry. Fugleberg said her generation has grown up with mass shootings as the norm, not just in schools but in office buildings, on the streets, in a nightclub where people flocked to feel safe. Fugleberg’s hometown, Orlando, is haunted by reminders.

“It’s very easy to become isolated and to say, ‘Oh, this won’t happen,’” she said. “But you know [the shooting of] Trayvon Martin happened about 10 minutes away from me. Christina Grimmie happened about 15 minutes away from me. Pulse happened about 15 minutes away from me. Parkland’s not that far away, either.”

“A lot of us,” she said, “are just tired.”