I am a middle aged father of school aged children and the mass shootings are horrifying to me. The school shootings are especially disturbing because school is the one place that I am almost never present with my children and cannot protect them. But be very careful when you hear anybody driving the point that government needs to address “school safety” without every mentioning “gun control” measures. Thus far, that is not something that I have been hearing out of the teenagers so I am 100% in support of the March For Our Lives and the activity that will surely follow. I can’t applaud loudly enough or be vocal enough in my praise for the organizers. And I do not mind that there are adults assisting and supporting the teenagers from Parkland and all over the nation that have spear-headed this most recent and manifestly most effective movement against gun violence. From where I sit, the teenagers and young adults driving this movement have remained true to the mission and unencumbered with the burden of political affiliation.
But beware of the parents. What I am hearing sprinkled into some of the news stories, interviews and sound bytes is highly concerning to me. For some of them, its all about “school safety” and almost never about “gun conrol.” The implications of that divergence suggests that maybe some of these old folks need to move further to the background before they inadvertently contaminate this pure and organic protest moment that quickly evolved into a full on political movement.
I’m going to tell you here and now how to spot a grieving parent that is also hedging their public commentary for political considerations. When a parent who lost a child in that horrible school shooting in Parkland is very careful to confine his commentary to “school safety” concerns, they are compromised and cannot be counted on to be a trusted advocate for the movement these young people are leading.
The reason is that an AR-15 has been used to slaughter innocent and unwitting citizens in office buildings, parks and post offices all across America. If all you want to do is to “make sure the schools are safe for our children” you are missing the point of this movement. The point is to stop these random mass shootings wherever they may occur. Of course it is horrifying when it happens in a school because it means that our children are targeted for murder and what could be more upsetting than that?
But children were killed in that park in Las Vegas, too. And in that Southern California mall. And on that Chicago sidewalk. And in that post office in Atlanta. So making schools “hardened targets” wouldn’t have helped them at all. I suspect that these grieving parents also happen to be big gun supporters or die-hard G.O.P. voters and they know that. Understandably, they are hurting because their children have died in an act of depraved violence that seems like we could prevent if only we had the political will to do so.
They have to raise their voices in honor of their slain child because what kind of parent would they be if they didn’t? But at the same time, they may have historically chosen the side of the gun backers and are hesitating to bring the words from their mouths that “we need GUN safety measures” so the best they can muster is “we need SCHOOL safety measures.” Stating it plainly, offering any solution to these tragic shootings that does not also include controlling guns is doing the bidding of the NRA – regardless of the intentions. And the strangest feature of all is that by taking such a position, the grieving parent of a slain teenager can wind up transferring the energy of this painful tragedy into fuel for the NRA by lending credence to its phony posturing that it really is concerned with anything other than helping gun manufacturers sell more guns.
I am not about attacking people who are in pain and trying to do the best they can. But we need to be smart in how we process what we are hearing. I have been impressed as hell with young Mr. David Hogg for his adept skill at avoiding being pigeon-holed by any political affiliation. He has made the point that he is down with anybody who is serious about ending these shootings and is actively opposing anybody who is offering their worthless “thoughts and prayers.” Good for him. And most others have followed his lead. The result has been that thousands upon thousands of young adults – newly registered voters at that – have galvanized around a cause that transcends race, class, religion and geography. So on a cool Saturday morning in March young people from all over the country marched and raised their voices to say: THE MASS SHOOTING EPIDEMIC MUST END – BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. And as they lead the march, older folks of good conscience and clear minds are not hesitating to follow them.
They are not hedging. They are not scurrying around in search of a narrow solution. They are not leaving room for negotiation. And most importantly, they are not taking anything off the table. So those wounded, heartsick and politically sensitive parents can limit their contribution to “school safety” all they want and these determined young people will gladly take that – ALONG with gun control; ALONG with thorough mental health screening for gun licensing; ALONG with more thorough and in-depth background checks; and most important of all ALONG with banning weapons of war for sale to the public. And that is why these kids are going to win – eventually. It may not be today or tomorrow but the politicians of America are on notice: these young people are engaged and active and they are watching you. The grief they feel does not narrow their focus as it does for some of these older folks, it expands it. So watch your asses.
Senator Marco Rubio will be looking for another job the very first time he has to face the voters and these young Floridians are amongst them. You can count on that. They can tell he’s not really down to do what needs to be done to address this public health crisis- and they’ll deal with him accordingly. I just hope that they also find a way to deal with some of the grieving parents who are supposed to be on their side but who may be secretly undermining their efforts.