Last week’s shooting at Parkland School in Florida is turning into America’s Grenfell Tower:
Driven by rage and grief over one of the deadliest school shootings in modern American history, students from across the country were taking action in hopes of pushing their lawmakers to rethink their positions on gun control, even as the Florida State House rejected a move on Tuesday to consider a bill that would ban assault rifles.
From California to Florida, teenagers walked out of classes, stopped traffic and made stirring speeches calling out their elders for inaction.
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed last week, traveled on Tuesday to Tallahassee, the state capital, to call for an assault weapons ban. The direct appeal to the Legislature follows protests outside schools, social media appeals and national television appearances.
It is understandable that students who’ve survived a school shooting and seen their friends killed should be angry. But being a victim of trauma doesn’t in itself make someone knowledgeable of the legislative process or even the subject at hand. The American media has shamelessly got hold of these kids and, rather than helping them, has coerced them into attacking the NRA and Trump administration. It might make good television but a bunch of angry teenagers isn’t going to add much to any national debate on gun control, even if they have been on the wrong end of a firearm. Here’s what one had to say:
“The people in the government who are voted into power are lying to us,” she said. “And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and are prepared to call B.S.”
“They say that tougher gun laws do not decrease gun violence — we call B.S.!” she continued as a chorus of supporters echoed her. “They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun — we call B.S.! They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars — we call B.S.! They say that no laws could have been able to prevent the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred — we call B.S.! That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works — we call B.S.!”
She wiped her eyes aggressively. Then, she urged the people in the crowd to register to vote — and to give their elected officials “a piece of your mind.”
Tyra Hemans, a senior at Stoneman Douglas, brought a poster featuring the word “ENOUGH” to a funeral for one of her classmates on Friday. She said she also wanted to deliver a message to President Trump.
“I want our politicians to stop thinking about money and start thinking about all these lives we had lost,” she said. “I want to talk with him about changing these laws.”
This is all very touching and I’m sure their parents are very proud, but the best thing these kids can do is get this incident behind them as quickly as possible and move on, seeking professional counselling if necessary. What they shouldn’t do is allow themselves to be catapulted onto some pedestal by the likes of CNN and used as a club with which to bash Trump, because this is a fight they’re not going to win.
We saw this after the Grenfell Tower fire, when victims – and half a million other people who were also in the tower, or knew someone in it, or were nearby, or had been to London once – were seized upon by political lobbyists to attack Theresa May’s government and promote Corbyn’s Labour. Traumatised, angry people who should never have been on TV were shoved in front of a camera and encouraged to make ludicrous demands and hurl wild accusations at Tories. What should have been a compassionate but serious response to a terrible incident was hijacked and turned into an absolute circus.
The situation in America is slightly different, though. Those who exploited the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire got away with it because the Tories are piss-weak and the British people, particularly Londoners, can be relied upon to wring their hands in enough numbers that slapping the protesters down and carrying out a proper investigation would have spelled political disaster. And the demands of those allegedly representing the victims were, when it comes down to it, more looting of the state coffers for their own benefit. Nobody in Britain is going to protest that with any great vigour as the last two decades have shown.
But these kids in America have decided to go after the gun lobby, particularly the NRA. Now the reason the NRA is so powerful is because it has three million members all of whom voluntarily pay an annual fee in return for the NRA doing exactly what it does: represent their interests in Washington and the state capitals. If you were to believe American liberals or the average Brit, you’d think the NRA is powerful because gun manufacturers give them money which is used to bribe Republicans who then vote against the direct wishes of ordinary Americans. This is a handy narrative, but it is demonstrable nonsense. In reality, the Republicans listen to the NRA because the organisation represents millions of gun-owning Americans who each have a vote and will use it if they believe their rights are under threat. The reason that gun control is such an intractable issue in the United States is not because of the intransigence of the NRA, but the intransigence of its three million members. Going after the NRA is an exercise in shooting the messenger.
American gun owners probably have a lot of sympathy with these children who intend to march on Washington, but they’re not going to stand idly by while they bawl at congress to remove their gun ownership rights. If necessary they’ll fight back, and hard. The most likely result of this will be to leave the children bitterly disappointed, disillusioned, and exhausted and – once the news cycle has moved on and they’re inevitably dumped by the likes of CNN as no longer useful – feeling exploited to no small degree. If any of them haven’t managed to completely embarrass themselves in a live interview with a serious adult, they’ll have done well. They’ll then have to return home, pick up their lives, and deal with whatever emotional mess they’re left with. The best thing the Democrats and media can do is to leave these kids alone and let them get over this incident however they can, not shamlessly use them as cannon-fodder in a futile battle in their never-ending war against the Republicans and Trump. Ultimately, their parents should be putting a stop to this.