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Parkland survivor says gun violence always leaves communities 'broken'

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

We're going to return now to the story we've been following closely since yesterday - the school shooting in the small town of Uvalde, Texas. These shootings have become an unfortunately familiar story in the United States, and every new one strikes much too close to home for people who've been through them in the past. Four years ago, Jaclyn Corin was a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. That's where a student opened fire on his classmates and teachers. Seventeen people were killed and another 17 were injured. Jaclyn Corin went on to become an activist against gun violence, and she co-founded the March for Our Lives movement. Jaclyn is with us. And, Jaclyn Corin, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, and thank you for talking about this.

JACLYN CORIN: Thank you for having me.

PFEIFFER: This is a really big question, but can you tell us what you've been thinking and feeling since you heard the news out of Uvalde yesterday?

CORIN: Oh, gosh. I am absolutely devastated for the children who will never get to live out their lives. You know, they are forever second, third and fourth-graders. I'm devastated for the parents and loved ones of those children and also the teachers who were killed. I'm devastated for the students and teachers of the school who were fortunate enough to live, but will, unfortunately, have to endure an immense amount of trauma for the rest of their lives. I'm all too familiar with that. And I'm frustrated that we live under people in power who are selfish enough to prioritize money from the National Rifle Association instead of implementing laws that would actually prevent kids - kids - from being murdered.

PFEIFFER: You talked about this being something that people in Uvalde now have to endure forever, and that's also the case with you. It's something you have to endure for the rest of your life because you went through it. Is there anything that comforted you or that you felt comforted your community after that happened that you feel like you could tell other people as they try to get through this latest school shooting?

CORIN: I mean, the only thing keeping me together was my classmates and my teachers. I felt immense comfort, also, by Columbine shooting survivors. You know, I could see how they've healed over time, but ultimately, we always will be a little bit broken. And what I need people to understand is that the Uvalde community has been broken, and it's going to take a very long time to pick up the pieces, just as it has in Parkland.

PFEIFFER: Jaclyn, as I mentioned, you and some of your classmates started the March for Our Lives movement and gun violence. How did you decide to turn your experience into activism?

CORIN: I actually had been in the building where the shooting occurred just minutes before, delivering Valentine's Day carnations. And I had an immense amount of survivor's guilt and still live with it, knowing that I was lucky enough to be alive and breathing. But ultimately, this cycle of mass gun violence, people are interested in hearing about it for a couple days to a couple of weeks after it happens, and then people forget. And that's why I knew I had to jump in immediately in my advocacy. Not a lot has been done on a federal level, but hopefully this shooting in Uvalde is the change.

PFEIFFER: Because not a lot has happened on the federal level, do you feel like you're developing any feeling of futility, or how do you keep your energy to keep fighting for this when you don't see the ideal changes you want to see?

CORIN: Well, I remain motivated by a lot of the changes that have happened on state levels in places like Massachusetts, where I go to college. It has some of the strongest gun laws in the country. And in 2020, Massachusetts had the second lowest gun death rate in the U.S. And so, obviously, there's a correlation. And what also keeps me motivated is I know that change can happen, and it's just a matter of time. And each and every one of us has a duty to go to the polls this November for the midterm elections and vote out people who have no interest in changing our gun laws and vote in people who actually care about preventing the deaths of young people.

PFEIFFER: Jaclyn Corin is a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and co-founder of the March for Our Lives movement. Jaclyn, thank you.

CORIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sacha Pfeiffer is a correspondent for NPR's Investigations team and an occasional guest host for some of NPR's national shows.
Jonaki Mehta is a producer for All Things Considered. Before ATC, she worked at Neon Hum Media where she produced a documentary series and talk show. Prior to that, Mehta was a producer at Member station KPCC and director/associate producer at Marketplace Morning Report, where she helped shape the morning's business news.
Kathryn Fox