Watch out, NRA: There's new momentum in gun reform fight
Something is definitely different in the movement for stronger gun safety laws this time around.
The impetus comes from the honest and heartfelt pain, anger, and eloquence of the teenagers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 of their classmates and teachers were killed by an expelled student with an AR-15 in the Valentine’s Day mass shooting. Their televised speeches and media appearances criticizing the National Rifle Association and legislative inaction have gone viral worldwide.
These students are unafraid to call out the NRA or state and federal lawmakers. As one Stoneman Douglas student, 17-year-old Cameron Kasky, said in an op-ed published on CNN:
We can’t ignore the issues of gun control that this tragedy raises. And so, I’m asking—no, demanding—we take action now.
Why? Because at the end of the day, the students at my school felt one shared experience—our politicians abandoned us by failing to keep guns out of school.
But this time, my classmates and I are going to hold them to account. This time we are going to pressure them to take action. This time we are going to force them to spend more energy protecting human lives than unborn fetuses.
There are right-wing conspiracies and smear jobs claiming that the students are being coached by adults, or that the entire Parkland shooting was a “false flag” fictional event, designed to take away people’s guns. In the most ridiculous assertion, some conspiracy nuts charge that the students aren’t students at all but are paid actors who “move from crisis to crisis.” Some threats are more serious: Kasky himself reported on Twitter that he was receiving death threats. At least media outlets are exposing the right-wing lies for what they are, and Google has removed some of the most outlandish conspiracy videos about the Parkland survivors from YouTube.
While these student leaders are obviously students, many have speaking and academic experience that’s coming in handy. Student David Hogg, managing editor of the student TV station at Stoneman Douglas, described how students in debate classes and on the debate team researched and argued about gun control last fall, gathering information that serves them perfectly right now in their media interviews and talks with legislators. Disputing the “paid actor” conspiracy theory, Kasky, a veteran of high school theater, joked to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that «If you had seen me in our school's production of Fiddler on the Roof, you would know that nobody would pay me to act for anything.» When people remarked after her impassioned speech that student Emma González should run for president, she said she already was president—of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. In her AP Government class, she’s learned all about the influence of special interest groups in American politics, including the NRA—knowledge that served the students well in their successful fight to get companies to sever ties with the gun lobby. Those kids are good.
So a group of telegenic and social media-savvy teenagers is moving the goal posts, just by being unafraid to speak the truth. As a result, there are other signs of movement in the fight for gun safety.