Starting Wednesday, some Parkland families are raising money for a campaign to push the National Rifle Association out of politics and ban assault weapons, bump stocks and high-capacity magazines in the U.S.
Following the lead of their children, parents from the community where 17 died in a Valentine's Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have joined together to form Families vs Assault Rifles, a nonprofit and political action committee founded to be a counterweight to the NRA. Jeff Kasky, the father of March For Our Lives' student activist Cameron Kasky, says the group is quickly gaining support and has already received commitments from "financial backers" willing to match grassroots donations.
"The NRA purchases for cash money political favors," Kasky said in an interview. "That needs to stop."
The organization, according to its website, was created to "remove the NRA from our political system" and fight for gun-control policies by amending the National Firearms Act of 1934. The Super PAC registered with the state and federal governments on May 18 — the same day as a shooting that killed 10 at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas — and evokes a March For Our Lives motto that people should "either change the law or change the lawmakers."
The parents' Super PAC is soliciting $17 donations, one dollar for each life lost in the shooting.
Amy Harwood, a Boca Raton parent and friend of Kasky's, said the PAC is nonpartisan and won't be supporting candidates. She said the committee will target politicians who take NRA money and hammer them with "negative" ads during the midterm elections.
Harwood helped establish the committee when she helped introduce Kasky to Matt Gohd, a political strategist with Tipping Point Analytics. Kasky said Gohd is running point for the parents' Super PAC, but said most of the people involved in the efforts, including a number of families from Parkland, are helping out as volunteers.
"We don't have any skin in this game other than the actual skin of our kids and our families," Kasky said.
In an email, Gohd said the PAC has a $10 million fundraising goal, and then "mega donors" will be asked to match the amount. He said the committee is targeting competitive federal races.
The creation of the Super PAC continues existing efforts by Parkland parents to become involved politically. Two parents, Lori Alhadeff and Ryan Petty, are running for the Broward County School Board. Three, including Petty, sit on a state commission created to review the shooting at Stoneman Douglas. Several have created their own nonprofits to fund school safety measures and gun awareness, among other issues.
Like his son, Kasky has been a harsh critic of politicians who resist gun-control efforts, and has been especially pointed with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. The day after the Santa Fe High shooting, the committee's Twitter account responded to a post about Rubio repeatedly offering prayers for shooting victims by asking if it was too soon to begin calling Rubio "little prayer bitch."
Kasky said he probably shouldn't have used that language on Twitter, but said he refuses to give respect to people he feels don't deserve any.
"They're all sellouts," he said. "Somebody's gotta call it for what it is."