Shun the NRA. Shun the assault weapons manufacturers. Shame and vote out the politicians who take their money and do their bidding. That’s the strategy that activists for firearms sanity have finally seized on, after decades of losing to the most bloodthirsty lobby in America.
The rise of the Parkland students, and their #NeverAgain movement following the slaughter of 17 of their classmates and teachers by a 19-year-old former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County Florida, presents the most existential threat to the gun lobby in my lifetime. These kids, aged 15 to 18, have spoken more clearly, more forcefully, and more effectively than any activists or politicians, who for decades have pleaded for laws prohibiting the amassing of personal military-style arsenals by American gun fetishists.
What these young people have is special. They are too hurt and shocked and angry to be told to calm down. They are too social-media savvy to be fazed by bots and trolls and insane conspiracy theories. They were born in the post-9/11 age and are too fearless to be made to back down by bullies like the NRA’s resident Cruella de Ville Dana Loesch and her fellow travelers on the right. And they can easily spot the BS of a president, who has to hold a palm card to remind him to care when he speaks to them about their terrifying experiences.
And what they are demanding is so rational it’s impossible to argue against it: an end to the ability of a teenager who can’t legally purchase Sudafed, rent a car or buy a beer to obtain a weapon of war, and to turn his anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts into mass slaughter.
The statistics are damning. Since 1966, when a gunman turned the clock tower at the University of Texas into a sniper’s nest, killing 17 people before police killed him, 1,077 Americans have been murdered in mass shootings, including 162 children and teenagers. According to The Washington Post, which examined 150 mass killings in which one or more gunmen participated and four or more people died, 167 of the 292 guns used by 153 mass murderers were obtained legally, and only 49 illegally (the sources of the rest are unknown).
The problem is not “illegal” guns. It’s the ones that are perfectly lawful to obtain. And by the way, mass shootings represent a fraction of the overall gun deaths that are unique to America, which lost more than 1.5 million lives to gun homicides and suicides between 1968 and 2015 – more than have perished in all the wars America has been involved in combined.
And the gun lobby aims to keep the cash registers ringing. With gun sales on the decline, particularly without the black bogie man President Obama to send the “war games in the woods” militia ranks soaring, they are constantly looking for new ways to terrify existing gun owners into hoarding even more.
With each new tragedy the gun lobby pushes for more concealed carry, more open carry, campus carry, guns in bars and churches, preventing bans on guns that are undetectable by metal detectors, legalizing silencers and armor piercing bullets whose purposes is solely human extermination, and arming teachers; all in the name of expanding firearm sales. And they stand firmly in the way of any law that would take weapons of mass death out of the hands of abusers, suspected terrorists, and even the insane.
After a gunman used a Glock 17 and Ruger P89 9mm pistol to shoot 50 people, killing 23 inside Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas in 1991, both the U.S. House and Democratic Governor Ann Richards fought for measures that would have outlawed the kind of weapons used in the killings. The Texas and national gun lobbies fought back, defeating the measures and replacing them with increased support for concealed carry. Richards vetoed one of the new, bloody bills. Her successor, Gov. George W. Bush, signed it.
After an armed security guard – a proverbial good guy with a gun – proved powerless to prevent two students from Columbine High School in Colorado from slaughtering 13 of their classmates before killing themselves in 1999, the Denver Post’s David Olinger wrote this:
They stashed enough firepower under long black coats and in duffel bags to shoot at hundreds of classmates. Concealed in the coat Dylan Klebold wore to school on April 20 was an assault weapon banned from manufacture in 1994, a crude, menacing pistol made to fire 36 rounds without reloading. Eric Harris brought a new, short-barreled rifle that fired 10 rounds at a clip, the maximum allowed by the assault-weapons law.
Each carried a shotgun, sawed off at both ends to render it half its original length, short enough to hide like a handgun and wield like a Capone-era street sweeper.
All four of these guns had been sold from Colorado gun-show tables in 1998 by private sellers who took no names, required no signature, called nobody for a background check. Robyn Anderson, an 18-year-old Columbine High senior, bought three on a weekend shopping spree with her 17-year-old companions. Klebold and Harris supplied the cash, she the driver's license. The assault weapon, a TEC-DC9, was sold at a different gun show to Mark Manes, a young man who later resold it for $500 to the killers - and then sold them a fresh supply of ammunition on April 19, 1999.
At that time, the question was how to close this “gun show loophole." The NRA and its fellow gun lobbyists went to work on politicians fearful of being washed out in the 2000 elections and saw to it that nothing was done.
After another gunman carried four guns including an AR-15 (the assassin’s weapon of choice) and 6,000 rounds of ammunition and murdered 12 people at a Batman: The Dark Knight Rises screening in Aurora, Colorado in 2012, injuring 70, the NRA made sure nothing was done.
After a gunman killed 32 of his classmates at Virginia Tech in 2007, the NRA made sure nothing was done.
After a teenager slaughtered 20 six- and seven-year-olds and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut 11 days before Christmas in 2012, the NRA made sure nothing was done.
After a racist gunman murdered nine black parishioners during Bible study inside historic Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina in June of 2015, the NRA made sure nothing was done.
After the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando left 49 young people dead and 58 injured in June 2016, Marco Rubio used the tragedy to launch his reelection campaign, and then he and his fellow Republicans, under the direction of the NRA, made sure nothing was done.
After gunman turned a hotel room on the Vegas strip into a sniper’s roost like the one in Texas 51 years earlier, raining more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition onto a crowd of country music concertgoers, killing 58 people and wounding a breathtaking 851 more, the NRA made sure nothing was done. When it was revealed that the gunman tricked out his semi-automatic rifles with “bump stocks” to allow them to fire like machine guns, the NRA opposed outlawing the accessory, even after hinting they might grow a conscience and support a ban.
Indeed, all the NRA and even more extreme lobbying groups like Gun Owners of America have done after each of these tragedies is to push for more guns in more places, more permission for gun owners to kill fellow human beings by ensuring they can get away with it via laws like “Stand Your Ground,” more extremism allied to right wing media, neo-Confederate lunatics and even Russia, and more blood money in the hands of Republican politicians.
Currently, the NRA is on record opposing restoring 21 – the age of majority at this country’s founding – as the minimum legal age to buy the kind of assault weapon used to mow down 17 children and teachers at Marjory Stone Douglas High School – something that now even the A+ rated governor of Florida, Rick Scott, is calling for. The 21-year-old minimum age to buy a handgun (but notably not a rifle, including an assault rifle) became the law of the land in 1968 following the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy that year and the murder of President John F. Kennedy five years before. At the time, the NRA – which was still primarily a sportsman’s organization – supported it, as it had supported the public disarming of the Black Panthers in California under the Mulford Act signed into law by then-governor Ronald Reagan in 1967.
Well, the children of Parkland, in 2018, have finally said “enough.” As the young people of an earlier time led their parents and grandparents and an unwilling nation to moral improvement during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s, these children are leading us. And we are proud to so honorably led.
These children are united and determined. And they can win. Indeed already, the quarantining of the gun lobby has begun.
This week, the mayor pro tem of Dallas invited the NRA to find a new location for their bloody convention, and warned that if they do show up in his city, there will be protests. Governor Scott and Nevada Attorney General Paul Laxalt, both staunch pro-gun Republicans, won’t even publicly admit they plan to attend – a sign of how toxic the NRA has already become.
The Parkland students have called for a March 24 march on Washington. “The march for our lives” has already attracted millions of dollars in pledges and support from Hollywood titans like George and Amal Clooney and Oprah Winfrey. The march could put millions of people, young and not-so young, in the streets all over the country. School districts should be warned that punishing students for walking out in support of the movement will only make it stronger.
On Friday, First National Bank of Omaha, the largest privately owned credit card company in the U.S., along with Enterprise, Alamo and National car rental agencies, ended their partnerships with the NRA, which offered discounts and perks to their members.
This is only the beginning.
The forces of rationality finally sense an opening. The gun lobby is weak and cleaving to extremists. The Parkland children are strong and declaring that they no longer want to be a generation practicing active shooter drills and afraid to go to school.
Parents are standing up and refusing to sacrifice their children so the gun lobby can stuff more money into their pockets. Their kids may be too young to vote, but they aren’t.
And no, we don’t want are schools to be armed camps, with the lunch lady and the math teacher expected to be prepared to kill a former student who arrives ready to murder and to die
If our politicians don’t have the courage to do what is right, what is moral and what makes sense, by stopping the legal sale of these weapons, the American majority will change the politicians. If Wayne LaPierre doesn’t understand that the next generation and the next will be unavailable to him and his vile philosophy, he needs a quick lesson in demographic math. One way or another, the NRA and its extremist ideology are on a path to extinction.
And good riddance to them in advance.