Dear Commons Community,
In light of student activism this past week following the killings in Parkland, Florida, The New York Times editorial (see below) this morning asks: “Will America Choose Its Children Over Guns?” As commented in the editorial, moments arrive when citizens say they’ve had enough, when they rise up against political leaders who do not speak for them and whose moral fecklessness imperils lives. We may be witness to such a moment now with the protests by American teenagers sickened — and terrified — by the latest mass murder at the hands of someone with easy access to a weapon fit for a battlefield, not a school. These kids have had enough.
It appears that more of our elected representatives are listening now than in the past. Also it is not easy for those who support gun rights such as the NRA to push back too strongly against a children’s movement. Trump cannot affix a “crooked’ or “fake news” moniker on the children who appear genuinely committed to hold their representatives accountable. We wish them well and hope they can stay the course.
Will America Choose Its Children Over Guns?
By the Editorial Board
Feb. 20, 2018
As surely as there are camels’ backs and straws to break them, moments arrive when citizens say they’ve had enough, when they rise up against political leaders who do not speak for them and whose moral fecklessness imperils lives. We may be witness to such a moment now with the protests by American teenagers sickened — and terrified — by the latest mass murder at the hands of someone with easy access to a weapon fit for a battlefield, not a school.
These kids have had enough. They’ve had enough of empty expressions of sympathy in the wake of the sort of atrocities they’ve grown up with, like last week’s mass shooting that took 17 lives at a high school in Parkland, Fla. Enough of the ritualistic mouthing of thoughts and prayers for the victims. Enough of living in fear that they could be next in the cross hairs of a well-armed deranged killer, even with all the active shooter drills and lockdowns they’ve gone through. Enough of craven politicians who kneel before the National Rifle Association and its cynically fundamentalist approach to the Second Amendment.
They are asking in what kind of country are children sent off to school with bulletproof book bags strapped to their backs — capable, one manufacturer, Bullet Blocker, says, of “stopping a .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, 9mm, .45 caliber hollow point ammunition and more.”
“I was born 13 months after Columbine,” a 12th grader named Faith Ward said on Monday, referring to the school massacre in Littleton, Colo., in 1999, the dawn of the modern wave of school shootings. Ms. Ward spoke to a television reporter at an anti-gun demonstration outside her school in Plantation, Fla. “This is all I have ever known,” she said, “this culture of being gunned down for no reason, and this culture of people saying, ‘Oh, let’s send thoughts and prayers’ for three days, and then moving on. And I’m tired of it.
To be effective, any movement needs a realistic program, not mere emotion. Otherwise, it risks coming and going in a flash with little to show for itself. A tighter federal system of background checks is a start, to better monitor would-be gun buyers with mental illness, for example, or histories of gun violence. Such a program should also include reinstating a nationwide ban on assault weapons — a state measure died in the Florida Legislature Tuesday — and ending an absurd prohibition against using federal public health funds to study gun violence.
Even President Trump, who told an N.R.A. convention last April that “you have a true friend and champion in the White House,” has signaled he might be willing to improve the system. The Washington Post reported that after Mr. Trump saw the coverage of the student protesters, he asked Mar-a-Lago guests whether he should do more about gun control. On Tuesday, he ordered that regulations be written to ban bump stocks, devices that can make an automatic weapon out of a semiautomatic. Beyond that, though, it’s hard to tell if he means business when he says he’s open to more thorough background checks. Steadfastness is not a Trump hallmark.
However, if young people channeling this angry moment remain steadfast, they might not only force his hand but also stiffen the resolve of other elected officials and candidates. Horrific school shootings aside, they are vulnerable every day to gun mayhem at a stomach-churning rate. The journal Pediatrics reported last June that gunfire, each week, kills an average of 25 children ages 17 and under. A 2016 study in The American Journal of Medicine calculated that among two dozen of the world’s wealthiest nations, this country alone accounted for 91 percent of firearms deaths among children 14 and under.
What the young protesters are saying now is: Put down the guns. We’re your children.
How can anyone not heed their pained voices?