How Events Shape, Or Don’t Shape, Political Worldviews

Analysts suggest gun control rallies and walkouts represent a moment of political awakening for Gen Z, a new generation of first-time voters. What did similar moments look like for other generations?


Today, on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting and just over two months after the shooting in Parkland, Fla., many students around the country are walking out of class again. They’re calling for stricter gun laws. One big question around these protests is what kind of lasting political impact this might have on a new generation of first-time voters. NPR’s Asma Khalid reports.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Emily Nakano (ph) says she’s been around guns her entire life. She’s a senior in high school from Illinois.

EMILY NAKANO: The first time I was behind a gun, I was probably 3 or 4. I remember early years going to the gun range with my family. And I think the first time I shot totally independent was probably when I was 10 or 11.

KHALID: Nakano says she’s not scared of guns, but sometimes she’s scared at school. She’s gotten accustomed to lockdown drills. She’s been doing them since she was in second grade.

NAKANO: An alarm plays over the PA system, and we lock the door, turn off the lights and hide in a corner away from the window.

KHALID: Nakano’s 18. She’s part of this new generation of voters coming up behind millennials. They’re often called Generation Z. Nakano voted for the first time this past March in the Illinois primary, and she chose the Democratic ballot even though she thought she was a Republican growing up. Her vote was not strictly about guns, but she says something needs to be done, and she’s not alone.

JOHN DELLA VOLPE: Gun control is now the symbol of all things that young people really despise about Washington, D.C.

KHALID: That’s John Della Volpe. He’s director of polling at the Harvard Institute of Politics which surveys young voters. More young people say they’re definitely voting in the midterms than he’s ever seen in his polls before.

DELLA VOLPE: This is, I think, the culmination of a year or two years of frustration building up symbolized by the tragic events of Parkland.

KHALID: He says it’s a broader reaction to…

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