They made the case in Washington, D.C, in Miami, in New York, in Buenos Aires and in scores of other cities. At the March for Our Lives, Saturday, they spoke as one: “Enough is enough.”
“I’m here today because it happened to our school, and it shouldn’t have happened. It shouldn’t have happened anywhere, and we felt like it’s time to make change and get gun reform.” That’s why Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Zoe Bonner, 16, went to Washington, D.C.
“I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics, instead of vibrant, beautiful girls that fill a potential,” said a most impressive 11-year-old Naomi Wadler, of Minneapolis.
And, of course, Emma Gonzalez, the dominant face and voice of what fellow students are calling “the revolution” demonstrated the enormous eloquence of not speaking at all. Her six minutes and 20 seconds of silence were riveting.
Last month, scores of traumatized Stoneman Douglas students put aside their need to grieve, heal and recover from the Feb. 14 mass shooting that killed 17. Instead, on Feb. 15, they launched a national movement that went global on Saturday.
In less than two months they have cowed resistant Florida lawmakers into doing the unimaginable: restricting access to assault weapons. Gov. Rick Scott, his thoughts and prayers on the race for the U.S. Senate, signed it into law. They forced the president to issue a federal ban on bump stocks, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the well-timed announcement on Friday, before marches launched on Saturday. They embraced the cause of African Americans to end the gun violence that plagues too many of the communities where they live. Those voices had been roundly ignored by state and federal lawmakers, who were suddenly brought to heel when the same message came from white Americans. Bravo to student David Hogg for recently calling it what it is — “white privilege” — and insisting on using it for inclusiveness. They went toe to toe with the National Rifle Association, and in doing so, made Congress’ deep-pocketed puppeteer look even meaner and more tone deaf than it does already.
All culminated in Saturday’s marches, which took place in more than 800 cities in the United States and abroad. Still, for lasting accomplishment, “taking it to the streets” must signal another beginning: the angry venting that sends people back to their communities to continue the fight.
Here is what the marchers and the millions who support them are demanding: a ban on assault weapons frequently used to carry out mass shootings; an end to the sale of high-capacity magazines, restricting the amount of ammunition a rifle can fire; more stringent background checks; closing loopholes and enacting laws that require background checks on every gun purchase, including those that occur online or at gun shows.
Yes, it will be a fight, because the NRA has money to burn. Face it, if gun-control advocates got every last thing on their wish list tomorrow, there would still be millions of stockpiled weapons — assault and otherwise — in homes and on the streets, bought legally or stolen.
Tony Montalto, whose 14-year-old daughter Gina died in the shooting has the proper long view. He told marchers in Parkland: “Some here today may be disappointed that change is not coming fast enough. However, we will not take down the wall of stagnation by running into it headfirst. Removing one brick at a time may be the path that is needed.”
This is where the supporters, especially adults, come in. Life will move on, risking that the revolution will lose its camera-ready momentum. The students want adults to vow not to vote for candidates who accept NRA money and bow to its legislative agenda. They also are using social media to ensure young adults register, even if they are not yet old enough to vote. That’s how change is made.
There’s an equally passionate advocate from whom these dedicated students, nationwide, should take counsel: “Be depressed, discouraged and disappointed at failure and the disheartening effects of ignorance greed, corruption and bad politics — but never give up.” So said Marjory Stoneman Douglas.