When many Americans hear the word “lobbying,” they imagine people advocating for legislation benefiting big corporations and billionaires. However, lobbyists can also promote legislation which advances human rights issues. Such is the goal of Team Enough’s Florida Lobbying Collective. “Team Enough aims to lobby for meaningful gun violence prevention legislation that will help communities in Florida,” said Alyssa Ackbar, state director of March For Our Lives Florida and chapter leader of March For Our Lives FSU. “Participants are able to learn about the issue at hand and then continue to aid the movement by helping pass meaningful legislation.”
Team Enough is the youth division of Brady United, a national organization dedicated to gun violence prevention. “March For Our Lives and Team Enough have very similar goals and organize in the same spaces,” Ackbar said. Both are youth-led organizations which seek to mobilize young people in support of gun violence prevention.
This fall semester, participants in the Florida Lobbying Collective will take part in an eight-part webinar on gun violence prevention and two lobbying days at the Florida State Capital. Getting young people to be more aware of and get involved in local politics is key to Team Enough’s strategy. “Oftentimes, state and local laws make the biggest impact on how gun violence manifests itself in a community, meaning that state and local laws have the biggest impact on an individual or community,” Ackbar said.
Like all organizations, Team Enough has been forced to adjust to the new reality created by the coronavirus, one in which face-to-face interactions between lobbyists and legislators is no longer possible. However, changes to the Florida Lobbying Collective have been minimal; the only difference between Fall 2020 and past legislative sessions is that lobbying will now be virtual rather than in-person.
In some ways, the move to virtual lobbying makes Team Enough more inclusive, allowing students for whom traveling to Tallahassee is not possible to participate. “The collective remains largely the same, maybe even better in this case… Although we miss in-person meetings, the shift to a completely online program may give students more access to the legislative process from the safety and comfort of their homes,” Ackbar said. “This way we are also able to extend the invitation to apply to any and all students in the state of Florida, as opposed to just those in Tallahassee and North Florida, because now we do not have to plan out how to bring them all to our capital.”
Gun violence has emerged as a key issue in both national and local politics in the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting in 2018. Young people’s refusal to allow the news cycle to move on the aftermath of Parkland, to be content with politicians’ “thoughts and prayers,” have ignited a global movement. Now, groups like Team Enough and March For Our Lives are helping you people channel their energy and motivation into legislating. “The legislative process goes hand in hand with direct actions such as protests, one can not exist without the other,” Ackbar said. “Young people make the most change when they are able to tackle both, putting pressure on our lawmakers both in the capital and in the streets.”
You can learn more about Team Enough and apply for their Florida Lobbying Collective here. Applications are due on Wednesday, August 19.