Maybe this time things will be different, but you have to count us as skeptical.
Our six board members met earlier this week and didn’t make much progress. We agreed there is no place for an AR-15 in modern society, it is made to look like a military-style weapon, a designed people-killer with no redeeming function outside a war zone. We also acknowledged there are many other legal weapons just like it.
Over 45 minutes, we went from argument to counter-argument, from what the founders’ intentions were in 1791 to what could reasonably be accomplished with vigorous debate.
We wondered why everyone was so afraid — especially around here — and why so many people feel they need to be armed.
We couldn’t understand why firearm safety training is not mandatory before ever taking possession of a weapon.
It was as animated as this board has ever been as emotions ran high, but that’s because the stakes are high.
Ultimately, we came back to those kids at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.
Those kids gave us hope as never before that something might change.
We have no idea how you are supposed to react after witnessing a mass shooting; after hiding in a closet, hoping, praying the shooting stops. Then running for your life when it goes quiet while fighting back the terror and wondering why the world has gone insane.
How many of them looked at the bodies, we wondered?
How many saw the blood?
How do you go from a funeral one minute to a protest the next?
How do you stand before the world and unleash anger that most of the world finds refreshing and long overdue?
And do it with dignity.
When students went from office to office at the state capital in Tallahassee, they found the cowardice of their representatives.
Most of the representatives were conveniently absent when it came to meeting with the victims, hearing their arguments. We suspect they were hiding under their desks.
And consider this: The vote that failed in the Florida statehouse was not to “ban” assault weapons, but to conduct a debate.
To consider the possibilities.
To refuse even that is cowardice.
“I know I’ve been walking into office after office after office, and I’ve spoken to maybe three representatives, two of which already agreed with me,” Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Ryan Dietsch told Politico. “I want to see those people who shot down that bill (banning assault weapons), who did not let it get past committee. I want to see those people. I’m not here for a fight, I’m not here to argue with you. I just want to see your face and know why.”
We all do.
“We are, honestly at this point, begging them to do something, to save our lives, to save teachers’ lives,” student Olivia Feller told Politico.
That’s where this board is. We’re begging our representatives in Washington to do something, anything.
Within hours of the students’ protests, the unimaginable happened. Information was being spread on the internet that some of the student activists were really actors.
Politics had found a new low.
On Thursday, Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive for the National Rifle Association, blamed the media. “They don’t care about our schoolchildren,” LaPierre said.
Later, the NRA released an advertisement that said we, the media, “love mass shootings.”
The NRA also criticized law enforcement, gun-control advocates and the teenage survivors.
What sort of monster does such a thing after the deaths of 17 people?
We wonder if that is the place to start.
We should ask — no, that’s not strong enough considering the tough talk from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students — we should demand that every person running for elected office consider whether they want to have a relationship with an organization such as the NRA, including our own Rep. Elise Stefanik.
It’s actually not a lot of money for anyone running for Congress, but it’s not the money that gives the NRA its power, it is its ability to mount assaults on any politician who is not in its pocket.
The politicians fear the attack ads.
They fear a negative rating.
They fear even having the conversation.
That’s what gives these children an advantage.
They are not afraid. They have nothing to lose. How do you attack 15- and 16-year-olds who have witnessed a horror, when they are making more sense than the entire U.S. Congress combined?
Let’s go back to Olivia Feller and the question she wanted to ask legislative leaders:
“Which do you value more: guns or kids’ lives?”
It’s the question every National Rifle Association member should ask.
It’s the question every member of Congress should ask.
We’re asking you as well.