Rich Schultz/AP/REX/Shutterstock; Penguin Random House
June 21, 2018 at 09:30 AM EDT

As two of the fearless leaders of the March for Our Lives movement, David and Lauren Hogg are touring the country to stop gun violence, register young people to vote, and inspire Americans to get involved in politics. Along the way, they’ve sparred with Fox New’s Laura Ingraham and worked with inner-city violence interrupters nationwide.

They’re also siblings who grew up on Candy Cane Lane, a neighborhood in Los Angeles that turns into a tourist destination every Christmas with houses and palm trees decked out in colorful lights. They enjoy long car rides, which give them a chance as brother and sister to bond over TED Talks, school projects, and their loving parents.

As survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February, David and Lauren are navigating life as outspoken activists while also grieving the loss of close friends. In their newly published book, #NEVERAGAIN: A New Generation Draws the Line, they recall in harrowing detail the moment they realized a scheduled active shooter drill was no longer scripted, and reveal how they waded through tragedy to find inspiration and hope.

David and Lauren spoke to EW about why intersectionality is key to their activism, how the fight against parent-child immigration separation fits into their movement, and why teenagers deserve to be taken seriously in political discussions. Read on below, and purchase your copy of the book here.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your process like writing this book?
DAVID HOGG: It was really therapeutic, more than anything, for us to write it and relive a lot of our childhood. Understand everything in the context of our life — that’s really what this book was for us. I think what it will be for other people is a chance to really learn about empathy and caring. Know that when you see these people die on the news, they’re people. They aren’t characters, not numbers. They’re people.

LAUREN HOGG: This book was really helpful in beginning the healing process for me and David. We both have been so focused on gun violence and helping other people that we haven’t really taken as much time as we should have to focus on ourselves, and to look inside of ourselves and begin healing. By doing this, it was kind of doing both. It was really helpful for us emotionally to take time to think about how we personally feel, and just to talk about our childhood was really nice. It was kind of a break from this, although it was still talking about it.

Did it impact your relationship as siblings, talking about each other and reading each other’s chapters?
LH: Me and David are very close. I feel like we’re closer than most siblings. We’re best friends. That sounds so cheesy, but we kind of are because we talk about everything together. We always have these really deep conversations in the car driving to school. So I would say this book in a way is kind of like one of those conversations in the car, but longer and more surrounding gun violence.

When you started writing, what was the message you wanted to get across?
LH: I say this a lot, but my main goal of this book was to infuse some humanity into something that’s so inhumane and something that’s just awful. And also to remind people, like David said, that victims of gun violence and survivors of gun violence aren’t just victims and survivors. We’re people. We’re just people who have experienced this thing that we shouldn’t have had to.

Reading the list of shooting victims from Columbine until today was heartbreaking. What was the idea for having people read this?
DH: When they read that chapter, I hope they think of their own kids, if they have any. If they’re a kid, I hope they think of their best friend being each one of those people and dying over and over again.… And it’s happened too many damn times to let it continue in America.

We treat everything like it can be solved, but for some reason, we don’t treat gun violence like it can be solved. I ask why not, you know? We were able to stop the Vietnam War. We were able to end that. We were also able to get to the moon in a decade. I’m pretty sure we can end this war too.

You talk about gun violence as a national issue beyond just school shootings. David, you were just in Chicago, on the South Side working with Interrupters. Why was it important to talk about gun violence as a national, intersectional issue?
DH: I think what made me want to talk about it was realizing the [bias] that me and all my friends have got — because we’re a bunch of essentially privileged white kids — from the media. This has been happening in communities of color, been happening in Native American and poor communities for centuries. Think about it. The first mass shooting was Wounded Knee, if you really want to think about it that way. This has been happening for centuries in these communities, and now just because it’s a bunch of rich white kids that are being shot, we have to care about it? I think that we have to take an intersectional approach, because not being intersectional is what’s gotten us to this point. We have to be intersectional to end it here.

I hope that people understand in different communities — like in Chicago on the South Side, or in Ferguson, Missouri, or in Liberty City, or in inner-city D.C. — we can’t tell people how we’re going to help them if we haven’t lived through it. We have to listen and understand and empathize with them. That’s what I hope people learn from this book — how to feel empathy for other people and understand that the way to help others that haven’t experienced, for example, gun violence the way that you have or ever experienced gun violence. Ask the people that are affected how you can help them and what you can do. Don’t say you’re sorry. Say, “I’m fighting for you. I’m here, and I will be voting on this issue to end it, so that I’m not affected by this and nobody else is.”

LH: I think it’s our responsibility as survivors who have gained this platform to not talk for them but to talk to them and pass them the mic. Some of the friends that we have made in the last couple months on the South Side of Chicago or inner-city D.C., they share their stories and they tell us about how this has been something that’s been part of their lives since they were born. It’s something they deal with every single day. Something that, when they walk to school, they hear gunshots. They just keep walking, and they’re told not to look.

If we talk about gun violence, we can’t just speak about mass shootings and school shooting because that’s only a fraction of the real issue. So allowing these people to talk about what they’ve experienced is one of the most important things for us. 

It’s hard not to think of what’s been going on at the border with immigrant children, and both of you have been very vocal about that. For someone who doesn’t understand, how does that tie in to what you are doing?
DH: In communities of lower socioeconomic status where people come from different countries to make the American dream, where the parents can’t be home most of the time because they’re working three jobs for minimum wage and they’re having a hard time even raising a family, but they still do it — those communities oftentimes are heavily afflicted by gun violence. If you’re an immigrant and you don’t have your documentation, [but] you report these things, oftentimes you can be deported for reporting them and get put in a day-to-day system.

I was shocked to find this out in D.C.; if you are here and you’re under undocumented status and you get shot on a block with gangs, you’re automatically classified as a gang member. As soon as you get out of the hospital, one or two days later, ICE shows up at your house and rips you away from your family and deports you. So that’s not really a good way to get people to report crime in the communities that are so heavily affected by them because they’re worried they’re going to be deported. Meanwhile, they’re dying on the streets.

David, you again tweeted at Laura Ingraham this week, and you talk about the first instance in the book. Why re-engage her?
DH: We have to stand up to people who are bullies, honestly. She does that to me and to so many other people that, in the same way she can say what she wants, the consumer can say what they want too. You have the power to change the world by effectively communicating with other people and speaking to them and listening to them and working together to fix this issue.

How do you tell anyone who wants to be involved not to be overwhelmed by the number of things going on?
DH: Just breathe. And be around your friends. Love people for who they are. Don’t hate them for what they’re not. See other people as human beings regardless of their political beliefs, even if they disagree with you. That’s fine. That’s what voting is for.

LH: Having conversations with your family or friends, and especially those who don’t agree with you. Doing that is really what makes a change. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Take time for yourself and just do whatever you can to make the world a better place.

DH: And enjoy time with your friends while you can. Life is too damn short not to.

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

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