Why These High Schoolers Have the NRA Scared

Adam Rothman

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Change is brewing in Parkdale, Florida. This gunman messed with the wrong group of teenagers.

On Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz murdered 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Armed with a legally-purchased AR-15, he rang the fire alarm so students would flood the halls, and then opened fire. There had been a fire drill at the school that morning, leading many students to think it was simply another drill. Once the gunshots began, students hid under desks and huddled in classroom corners. Some texted their parents, unsure if they would make it out alive, and others bravely recorded the events on Snapchat. It was the deadliest school shooting in 5 years, and the 18th in the U.S. already this year.

The aftermath of this massacre has been different, however. The students of the school themselves are standing up and demanding a response. Emma Gonzalez, a heroic, articulate, and inspiring 12th grade survivor of the shooting, gave an impassioned speech that has been viewed by over 20 million people. Along with classmate David Hogg and countless other student-survivors, Emma is calling upon the government to respond with real gun control and mental health legislation. In the past week, they have been interviewed non-stop by journalists around the world, and are currently organizing a national campaign in their living rooms. Students across the country have already began staging school walkouts. On Wednesday night, CNN hosted a town hall that included the students-survivors, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and an NRA Spokeswoman. The nationwide “March for Our Lives” on March 24 will be based in Washington and is calling for youth around the country to take to the streets. Oprah Winfrey recently donated $500,000 to the campaign and billionaire Michael Bloomberg pledged to match every donation to Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit organization that advocates for gun control.

Democrats have been accused of using these survivors for their own agenda, but watch one clip of them speaking and you’ll see that their passion and determination is genuine. However, over the past week CNN has been covering this story 24/7, so it’s clear that the Left hopes to keep this issue in the spotlight.

Gun control legislation has long been hopeless in the U.S. due to the commanding influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA), and the existence of the 2nd amendment. Any law that references a “gun” is extremely controversial, a result of the NRA’s $5 million yearly spending on lobbying politicians. What’s different about this campaign, however, is that it’s not explicitly partisan. Students aren’t announcing their support for Democrats and attacking Republicans; shooting survivor David Hogg said, “We’re children. You guys are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role. Work together, come over your politics, and get something done.”

There is something energizing about this argument, depoliticizing the issue. From the point of view of young people, gun control isn’t political, it’s common sense. From the point of view of young people, doing something about climate change isn’t political, it’s common sense. From the point of view of young people, action on critical issues isn’t politics, it’s necessary.

The NRA may seem unbeatable, but that’s only possible if people are afraid to challenge them. Many Americans understandably cherish their right to bear arms, but at some point they need think less about their own rights and more about the impact that current gun laws are having on society. Perhaps, a movement led by young survivors can rally enough public support to finally influence lawmakers. Can teenagers be a potent political force or is their power simply an illusion? Only time will tell.

It is difficult to have hope for change on gun laws, but there is something brewing in Parkdale. I have hope that the U.S. will catch up with the rest of the world and do something, whether it be more extensive background checks, mental health evaluations or assault rifle bans, to prevent future deaths of innocent children. The only other option is to wait and see how bad things can possibly get.