Will They Run Through the Finish Line, or Pull Up Short?

Standing before vast crowds from Washington to Los Angeles to Parkland, Fla., the speakers — nearly all of them students, some still in elementary school — delivered an anguished and defiant message: They are “done hiding” from gun violence, and will “stop at nothing” to get politicians to finally prevent it. – New York Times, 3/25/18

Many of America’s youth say they’ve had enough. Of the killing. The slaughter. The assault weapons turned against them. So they’ve organized. And marched. And given interviews. And done everything they can think of to turn the tide, away from the lunatic fringe that thinks it has the right to possess whatever instrument of killing they desire, to the innocent ones. The kids who simply want to live and grow up to enjoy a full life. The kids who want to attend school without fearing for their lives.

Some of these kids have been nothing short of remarkable. Their presence and poise belies their years. They are an inspiration to many of us. But it’s not yet clear whether they will be effective. Or whether this too shall pass.

You can be sure the NRA and others aren’t going to lie down and give them what they want. They could care less about their cause, other than to resist it, with everything they’ve got. In their minds, Never Again is merely the latest assault on one’s right to possess whatever gun he or she chooses. Other assaults have been repelled in the past. I’m sure the NRA intends to repel this one, too.

The NRA has the majority of elected officials in its pocket. It understands how the game is played. The role money and votes play. And the power of a committed minority. The NRA has had years to perfect its defenses. No upstart army of kids is likely to roll over this seasoned bunch.

But they could. For the kids, together with their allies, have something money can’t necessarily buy: votes.

Yet it’s a theoretical point only — at least for now. The vast majority of high school kids can’t vote, and young people don’t vote in large numbers. As someone who couldn’t wait to turn 18 so he could vote, I have trouble understanding this — this apathy, passivity, intentional uninvolvement in our public life. But it’s reality. Whether the young people will change that remains to be seen. Until it happens, I’ll remain skeptical.

If they do decide to engage — at the ballot box and for the long term — then all bets are off. The old equation will be tossed out and a new dynamic will be at work among policy makers. What was safe will become unsafe, and what was risky will become prudent. Put simply, the members of Congress and state legislators across the land will fall in line.

But for this to happen, there will have to be follow through. The movement can’t pull up short. That’s pretty much the way life is. Life is full of good intentions. Follow through is not nearly as abundant. Yet without the follow through, it’s merely a flash in the pan. Here today, gone tomorrow.

I suspect the lunatics won’t allow that to happen though. As sure as the sun will come up this morning, there will be another school massacre. More kids will die. More kids, parents and grandparents will have a reason to get and stay involved.

I have to think that, eventually, America will come to its senses and realize certain weapons have no place in our society. But it could take time. And lots of hard work.

We’ll see.


The NRA Shoots Back

The State of Florida passed a law to prohibit gun sales to anyone under the age of 21. The NRA (National Rifle Association of America) didn’t like it. Yesterday, it filed suit, alleging that the law is unconstitutional under the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution as to adults (anyone over the age of 18). The complaint can be found here.

My suspicion is that legislators passed the new law, and didn’t pass other potentially more meaningful restrictions (such as prohibitions on automatic assault weapons), because they knew the age restriction would be the hardest one to pass constitutional muster. Passing the law gave them political cover (they did something) while perhaps doing nothing — that is, nothing that won’t be reversed by a judge.

The prohibition of 18 to 20-year-olds buying guns might be hard to justify. After all, this age group is eligible to enlist in the Armed Forces and handle weapons responsibly. Why should their rights be infringed upon in this manner?

I realize this age group is restricted in other ways, such as prohibitions on purchasing alcoholic beverages. But no one has the right to bear a beer under the Second Amendment.

The real problem, of course, is the U.S. Supreme Court’s politically biased opinion construing the Second Amendment is a way that goes beyond the plain text. Once that happened, America was destined to have its violent impulses constitutionally protected.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the NRA wins this case.

I, Too, Wish I Could See the World Without Us

Go Ahead, Millennials, Destroy Us, an op-ed penned by Tim Kreider, deserves to be read by every American.

Here are some appetizing snippets:

As with all historic tipping points, it seems inevitable in retrospect: Of course it was the young people, the actual victims of the slaughter, who have finally begun to turn the tide against guns in this country. Kids don’t have money and can’t vote, and until now burying a few dozen a year has apparently been a price that lots of Americans were willing to pay to hold onto the props of their pathetic role-playing fantasies. But they forgot what adults always forget: that our children grow up, and remember everything, and forgive nothing.

Those kids have suddenly understood how little their lives were ever worth to the people in power. And they’ll soon begin to realize how efficient and endless are the mechanisms of governance intended to deflect their appeals, exhaust their energy, deplete their passion and defeat them. But anyone who has ever tried to argue with adolescents knows that in the end they will have a thousand times more energy for that fight than you and a bottomless reservoir of moral rage that you burned out long ago.

* * *

I am creeped out by the increasing dogmatism and intolerance of millennials on the left … .

… Young people have only just learned that the world is an unfair hierarchy of cruelty and greed, and it still shocks and outrages them. They don’t understand how vast and intractable the forces that have shaped this world really are and still think they can change it. …

* * *  

The students of Parkland are like veterans coming home from the bloody front of the N.R.A.’s de facto war on children. . . . To them, powerful Washington lobbyists and United States senators suddenly look like what they are: cheesy TV spokesmodels for murder weapons. It has been inspiring and thrilling to watch furious, cleareyed teenagers shame and vilify gutless politicians and soul-dead lobbyists for their complicity in the murders of their friends.  . . .

One of my students once asked me, when I was teaching the writing of political op-ed essays, why adults should listen to anything young people had to say about the world. My answer: because they’re afraid of you. They don’t understand you. And they know you’re going to replace them.

My message, as an aging Gen X-er to millennials and those coming after them, is: Go get us. Take us down — all those cringing provincials who still think climate change is a hoax, that being transgender is a fad or that “socialism” means purges and re-education camps. Rid the world of all our outmoded opinions, vestigial prejudices and rotten institutions. . . . I for one can’t wait till we’re gone. I just wish I could live to see the world without us.

I recommend reading the entire essay.

From the Ashes of Evil, New Leaders Are Born

It is time for my generation — the Baby Boomers — to step aside. But we’ve shown no sign of doing so willingly. So the mantle of leadership will have to be yanked from our selfish grasp. I’m heartened to see that begin to happen. But somewhat surprised by who’s doing the yanking.

It’s the children.

More specifically, it’s the children in Florida who lost classmates and others to bullets. Bullets shot from an automatic assault weapon. That was bought by an alienated young man. Who wasn’t even old enough to buy a beer.

The insanity cannot be allowed to continue, the children say. They deserve to be safe in their schools. They deserve to be valued more than corporations and politicians who care only about themselves.

Their parents and neighbors have failed to act for far too long, say the children. So now they’re going to take action. They will protest. And organize marches. And do everything in their power to change things.

How much power they actually have remains to be seen. It may be little. It may be a lot. Perhaps much depends on their resolve. And the resolve of adults who care about the kids. And their future. And who are willing to put the interests of the kids and other innocent bystanders (such as concertgoers in Vegas) above the interests of gun manufacturers and the NRA.

My generation has sold out. Most of our elected representatives are on the take. They’re corrupt. They put their own interests — specifically, they’re overriding desire for money from wealthy contributors such as the NRA and gun manufacturers — above the interests of the people. They do not deserve to have power.

Hopefully, the kids will be successful in yanking some of that power from their greedy hands.

When a Nation Fails to Protect Its Children

In the first six weeks of this year (first 31 school days to be exact), gun violence visited our children’s schools 17 times. Red marks the spot (add a big red dot in Florida):

The latest rampage claimed 17 lives and more than a dozen wounded. It’s hardly news anymore. We don’t know when or where school children will be gunned down next, but we know it will happen. And happen again. Time and time again. And yet we do nothing. We accept it as a fact of life. But, of course, it isn’t a fact of life. It’s only a fact of life in the U.S.A

Americans are an odd bunch. This is the face of America today:

Many of us them (this is one time I don’t want to be lumped in with all of my fellow citizens) apparently love the NRA more than our children. They want the “right” to arm themselves with assault weapons, just in case … . Meanwhile, the right to live is routinely taken from innocents, by gunpoint.

I wonder what some of these people think they’re protecting. A nation that cares so little for its children that it fails to protect them? A nation that caters to the whims of a lunatic fringe full of conspiracy theorists? Is such a nation worth preserving?

“Our thoughts and prayers are with you,” they say. I suspect many of the parents who are making arrangements for their daughter or son’s funeral might say you can keep your thoughts and prayers to yourself. I know I would.

I will never vote for a candidate who takes a red cent from the NRA. Until more people do the same, nothing will change. Children’s lives will continue to be snuffed out.

Will America act, or will it continue merely to roll out its “thoughts and prayers” to make itself feel better when its children are slaughtered?

Or perhaps we’ll just blame the kids.

I guess we’ll see.

P.S. For perspective (homicides by firearm per million people) –

P.S. # 2 If there is any doubt about the power of the NRA, consider the fact background checks are not required on all gun buyers and then consider the information below. Obviously, our representatives have someone else’s interests in mind other than the people’s.

P.S. # 3 Sobering data: