NATIONAL NEWS

Parkland Shooting Spurs 3 Siblings Into Life Of Activism

Feb 13, 2019, 10:57 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:15 pm
PARKLAND, FL - AUGUST 15:  Students walk to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the first day o...
PARKLAND, FL - AUGUST 15: Students walk to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the first day of school on August 15, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Former student Nikolas Cruz, 19, is accused of killing 17 students and faculty members at the school on February 14, 2018 during the last school year. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) — Last February, Matt Deitsch was living his dream studying at a California university. His brother, Ryan, was about to graduate from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and head to college, the natural next step for the middle child from a family in the affluent suburb of Parkland.

Since the shooting, the brothers have put college on hold and moved into the national spotlight as they helped organize March For Our Lives, sparking a national conversation about gun control. They’ve crisscrossed the country with their younger sister Sam, speaking about assault rifles bans and universal background checks and visiting college campuses to register young voters.

Matt, now 21, flew to South Africa to accept the International Children’s Peace Prize. He and younger brother Ryan worked with “Avengers” actor Mark Ruffalo to write a public service announcement encouraging youth to vote.

“I don’t think anyone can truly explain the political journey we’ve been thrust onto. I feel like we have a better understanding of our nation’s politics than most of our politicians” Ryan said.

Last Valentine’s Day, Stoneman Douglas alumnus Matt was working with a startup T-shirt company that student Joaquin Oliver was going to model for three days later. Instead, Deitsch attended Oliver’s funeral that Saturday.

Ryan, a senior at the time, was hiding in a closet in his journalism class and emerged to grab footage for the school newspaper.

Sam, then a freshman, lost a close friend: 14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg. She’s spent the year in therapy and giving speeches about gun violence. She turns Sweet Sixteen on Thursday, the anniversary of the day her friend and 16 others died.

All three siblings found comfort in advocacy and one another.

Just hours after the shooting, the high school students became impossible to ignore— riding their bikes to TV interviews, trolling politicians on social media and rallying around the cry of “Never Again.” Gun-rights advocates also have emerged from Stoneman Douglas students, with Kyle Kashuv the most prominent.

Almost overnight, students like Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg became household names. Behind the scenes, more than a dozen others — among them the three red-headed Deitsch siblings — worked to launch what would become a longer term grassroots campaign.

Matt helped write many of the talking points “so that we could counterpunch what was being used against us which was incredibly more aggressive than we could ever imagine.”

In one of the organization’s first real stabs at the National Rifle Association and politicians that support it — a live town hall with CNN — Ryan hammered Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, asking “Why do we have to march on Washington just to save innocent lives?”

These days, he helps to run the organization’s content committee, making sure the message is on point whether it’s a video or merchandising. He has deferred college for now, drawing a meager salary from March For Our Lives, saying he made more money as a waiter and food delivery driver.

Matt, director of strategy, runs the day-to-day operations along with Jaclyn Corin.

“I work 110-plus hours a week. I’ve been on three national tours, around the country in the last 10 months. I’ve been to 41 states plus DC. … This work doesn’t stop,” he said.

Days after the shooting, Ryan and Sam headed to Tallahassee with busloads of students to push state lawmakers for gun reform. Discouraged that Florida lawmakers voted not to consider a proposed ban on assault rifles, they organized a trip to Washington with a handful of students, including Delaney Tarr and Alex Wind. They met with 200 lawmakers in two days.

The brother said the meetings were disappointing: Lawmakers made excuses, misquoted the constitution and treated them coldly.

“If they had pretended to be competent and that they were fighting for our lives, that they were working to protect us, March For Our Lives would have never existed. We would have hit the brakes,” Matt said.

The students had glimpsed the inner workings of the Legislature and decided it wasn’t working for them.

“That started the fire in our eyes on a whole other level,” Matt said.

The Deitsch siblings express anger as they retell their story during a recent interview in their home. But they also frequently burst into laughter. It’s their panacea.

When Sam is overcome by grief and missing her friend, the brothers pull out silly memes from social media to coax a smile. She says they’ve gotten closer since the shooting. They laugh about counterprotester antics and bond over what being at the epicenter of a movement is like.

“This year has been really, really hard for me and my mental health, and when I think how I have to live for (Jaime) … ,” Sam said, her voice trailing off in tears.

Looking ahead, March For Our Lives is already focusing on the next election. The group has said it is encouraged by impressive youth turnout in midterm elections and the growth of nearly 100 local chapters around the country. This year’s goal is to find creative ways to engage with disinterested youth.

“We had hundreds of thousands of students stand up and become politically active for the first time in their lives,” Matt said. “And every day there’s more of us.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, a driver working for FedEx was arrested and charged in the kidnapping and k...
Tina Burnside, CNN

Texas FedEx driver is arrested in the kidnapping and killing of a 7-year-old girl

A driver working for FedEx was arrested and charged Friday in the kidnapping and killing of a 7-year-old girl who had disappeared from her home's driveway in Texas earlier this week, police said.
16 hours ago
Noodle, the pug, is held....
Zoe Sottile, CNN

Noodle, the TikTok-famous ‘bones or no bones’ pug, has died

(CNN) — Noodle, the geriatric pug who captured hearts across the internet for his “bones or no bones” ritual, has died at age 14, his owner says. Jonathan Graziano, Noodle’s owner, announced that his beloved dog died on Friday, in a tearful update posted to his TikTok and Instagram. “This is incredibly sad, it’s incredibly […]
16 hours ago
Rapper Takeoff with a microphone...
LEKAN OYEKANMI and JAKE BLEIBERG Associated Press

Man arrested in fatal shooting of Migos rapper Takeoff

Police in Texas have announced an arrest in last month's shooting death of the performer Takeoff. Houston police said Friday that 33-year-old Patrick Xavier Clark was charged with murder and has been arrested in connection with the rapper's death. Born Kirsnick Khari Ball, Takeoff was the youngest member of Migos, the Grammy-nominated rap trio from suburban Atlanta that also featured his uncle Quavo and cousin Offset. Police have said the 28-year-old was fatally shot outside a bowling alley after a private party. Police said Friday that the shooting followed a dispute over a game of dice, but that Takeoff was not involved and was an innocent bystander.
16 hours ago
A flyer seeking information about the killings of four University of Idaho students who were found ...
Elizabeth Wolfe and Mallika Kallingal, CNN

Moscow police say a sixth person on the lease isn’t involved in the Idaho student killings

The Moscow Police Department said on Friday that they don't believe a sixth person listed on the lease at the residence, where four University of Idaho students were killed last month, was involved in their deaths.
2 days ago
FILE: This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Pre...
AMANDA SEITZ, Associated Press

US plans end to mpox public health emergency in January

The federal government plans to end in January the public health emergency it declared earlier this year after an outbreak of mpox left more than 29,000 people across the U.S. infected.
2 days ago
FILE - This undated artist rending provided by the U.S. Air Force shows a U.S. Air Force graphic of...
TARA COPP Associated Press

Pentagon debuts its new stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider

The United States' newest nuclear stealth bomber is making its public debut after years of secret development. The new bomber is part of the Pentagon's answer to rising concerns over a future conflict with China.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Parkland Shooting Spurs 3 Siblings Into Life Of Activism