Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Kyle Kashuv speaks to an audience at Jackson High School on Wednesday night about gun control and school shootings. Kashuv is a gun-rights advocate and survivor of a Florida school shooting in 2018. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Kyle Kashuv speaks to an audience at Jackson High School on Wednesday night about gun control and school shootings. Kashuv is a gun-rights advocate and survivor of a Florida school shooting in 2018. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

From student at Parkland shooting to conservative voice

Jackson High School’s new Turning Point USA club hosted Kyle Kashuv, who was at Stoneman Douglas High.

Kyle Kashuv opened his Wednesday night talk at Jackson High School with a declarative sentence. After a quip about not being ready for Northwest weather, the teen from Parkland, Florida, simply said: “There was a shooting at my school.”

His audience in the Jackson Commons — organizers estimated 300 people — was eager to hear what Kashuv would say. His views differ from those of many of his peers. Other students who survived last year’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have taken to the streets and airwaves as gun-control advocates.

That’s not Kashuv, who has shared his conservative views, support for gun rights, and ideas for making schools safer with members of Congress and at the White House with President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump. Now 18, Kashuv was a Stoneman Douglas junior on Feb. 14, 2018, when a gunman killed 17 at the school, 14 students and three staff members.

His free talk at Jackson, an Everett district school in Mill Creek, was presented by Turning Point USA. The national student group — its website says the nonprofit’s mission is to “identify, educate, train and organize students to promote the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government” — now has a chapter at Jackson, after initially being denied school-club status.

This man said he thinks some teachers — rather than uniformed security officers — should carry concealed weapons. That way, he said, “some bad guy doesn’t know who might be able to stop him.” (Dan Bates / The Herald)

This man said he thinks some teachers — rather than uniformed security officers — should carry concealed weapons. That way, he said, “some bad guy doesn’t know who might be able to stop him.” (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Jackson Principal Dave Peters explained that ASB leaders initially denied student Isaac Yi’s request to form the club over concerns it would be too political. “ASB groups aren’t allowed to influence campaigns,” Peters said Wednesday.

After Yi discussed the denial with conservative talk radio host Jason Rantz on KTTH-AM 770 last year, Peters met with Yi. In what the principal called “a learning opportunity,” Yi made revisions to his group’s constitution and the ASB approved Turning Point USA as a club.

Ian Todd, the 14-year-old vice president of the club, said Jackson’s Turning Point USA group has nearly 25 members.

Todd Reihing, father of Jackson student and Turning Point USA member Jack Reihing, asks a question after Kyle Kashuv’s talk. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Todd Reihing, father of Jackson student and Turning Point USA member Jack Reihing, asks a question after Kyle Kashuv’s talk. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

It was Rantz who introduced the Florida teen to the enthusiastic crowd. “Kudos to Principal Peters,” the radio host said before praising Kashuv.

In his talk, Kashuv didn’t dwell on that awful day’s details. He recalled being in fourth period when gunshots rang out. Kids were sheltered for two hours before leaving the school, hands on the shoulders of students in front of them.

He remembered watching news that night, and hoping “this doesn’t become a gun-control debate.” Since then, he has spoken out against gun control.

“School shooters love gun-free zones,” said Kashuv, who advocates single-entry schools where “armed individuals are ready to act.” He called law enforcement officers who stayed outside the school during the attack the “cowards of Broward.”

Jason Rantz, a conservative radio talk show host with KTTH, introduced speaker Kyle Kashuv, a student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Jason Rantz, a conservative radio talk show host with KTTH, introduced speaker Kyle Kashuv, a student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

And he said many warning signs and reported tips about the shooter hadn’t been investigated or acted upon. “If government officials can’t implement laws, they’re useless,” he said.

Back at school, Kashuv said he was met with scorn for what he described as his unpopular views. He said he was targeted with “beat-up attempts,” and claimed one teacher gave him an 89.47 percent to keep him from earning an A.

Asking the audience “How many have experienced bullying because you’re conservative?” he told students that “It gets better.”

And Kashuv said that while his peers were marching for gun control, he was in Washington, D.C., meeting lawmakers in support of the STOP School Violence Act, which has passed the House. It includes a grant program for school security.

Debbie Blodgett, chairwoman Snohomish County Republicans, directs her questions to Kyle Kashuv on Wednesday night. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Debbie Blodgett, chairwoman Snohomish County Republicans, directs her questions to Kyle Kashuv on Wednesday night. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

In a Q-and-A session after his talk, most who spoke were supportive of Kashuv’s gun-rights stance.

A Running Start student at Cascadia College said that while she was at North Creek High School, her tires were slashed. She said she believes it happened because there was a gun sticker on her car.

J.D. Bonnar said he once worked as a school resource officer. “I would have gone in. I would have died for those kids,” he said. Bonnar also said he believes gun-control advocates are winning. “I see us losing this fight,” he said. Kashuv disagreed, saying Trump’s appointees to the Supreme Court “will cement the Second Amendment.”

One student who called herself “an outspoken conservative,” said she believes a gun sticker on her car led to her tires being slashed at North Creek High School. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

One student who called herself “an outspoken conservative,” said she believes a gun sticker on her car led to her tires being slashed at North Creek High School. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

A number of people noted their opposition to Initiative 1639, the voter-approved measure that increases the age, to 21, for purchasing a semi-automatic assault-style weapon. Kashuv reasoned that a 20-year-old single mom ought to have the right to arm herself to protect her kids.

Silas Simpson, an 18-year-old Jackson student, asked Kashuv, “Do you see any chance of the left and the right meshing — finding middle ground?”

“I think people are tired of constant fighting,” Kashuv said. After the 2020 election, perhaps by 2024, “I hope we can find middle ground. I hope we can disagree respectfully.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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