Florida students are schooling the NRA on gun control

by Diana Wichtel / 03 March, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - NRA gun control Florida

Kids bravely step up to tackle a gun lobby that their elders and betters keep running from.

There was a moment during CNN’s extraordinary town hall gun debate, Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action, when irresistible force made almost audible contact with immovable object. Actually, there were many such moments as survivors of the Florida high school shooting and families of those murdered challenged lawmakers for answers before a broken, often angry audience.

See Republican Senator Marco Rubio explain the problem with imposing a ban on assault weapons: “Once you start looking at how easy it is to get around it, you would literally have to ban every semi-automatic rifle that’s sold in the US.” Cue roars of approval. “Fair enough,” said Rubio. He’d inadvertently articulated what many viewed not as a problem but a solution to a situation where 18-year-olds can legally acquire weapons of mass destruction.

Stephen Colbert replayed the scene via a wicked Late Show Rubio impersonation: “Look. We’d have to get rid of guns and that’s a slippery slope to fewer dead people. Oh, you’d like that? Fair enough. It takes all kinds.”

Not everyone was impressed by the town hall or, as Fox News’ Sean Hannity preferred, “Fake News CNN’s gun control, quote, town hall.” Hannity was apoplectic during the Obama years. You’d think he’d be happy now, but he’s positively frothing at the mouth. The students were being exploited, he raged, though he was happy to have students not on board with CNN on his show.

The maturity of the Stand Up students stood in contrast to that sort of thing. Cameron Kasky asked the crowd not to boo speakers along party lines. “Anybody willing to show change and willing to start to make a difference is somebody we need on our side here.”

National Rifle Association (NRA) spokesperson Dana Loesch got booed. “Dana … why are my son’s inalienable rights not protected as fiercely as the right to bear arms?” asked one victim’s mother. Loesch’s answer: more guns. “Next week, there’s going to be good guys with guns that are going to be in school protecting lives.”

Sheriff Scott Israel received a largely rapturous reception for his impassioned, if sometimes ungrammatical, support. “You just told this group of people you stood up for them,” he told Loesch. “You’re not standing up for them until you say, ‘I want less weapons.’”

Israel wasn’t so impressive at explaining the numerous missed red flags about the shooter. That and the adequacy of the police response to the attack are under investigation.

Complex matters. Student Emma Gonzalez had a simple question for Loesch: “Do you believe it should be harder to obtain the semi-automatic and the modifications for these weapons to make them fully automatic like bump stocks?” Loesch: “I don’t believe that this insane monster should have ever been able to obtain a firearm, ever.” So no guns for insane monsters, then.

The town hall may or may not turn out to be a pivotal part of what one teacher described as “a revolution”. The students are up against it. In a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference the next day, to loud cheers, Loesch took aim: “Many in legacy media love mass shootings … You love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold.” She and the students inhabit different Americas. Loesch’s is armed to the teeth.

Rubio eventually said he would support raising the minimum age for buying a rifle and banning bump stocks. But when Kasky pressed him for a clear answer to his question – “Can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA?” – he didn’t get one. Still, change is in the air and time is taking sides. Student David Hogg, interviewed on MSNBC, had a message for those attacking the students’ movement. “You might as well stop now,” he said, looking steadily into the camera, “because we are going to outlive you.”

Video: CNN

This article was first published in the March 10, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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