On their first day in Tallahassee, grieving Parkland students took another blow.
As they watched in disbelief from the gallery, the Florida House —– aided and abetted by the same despicable alliance of pro-gun legislators from Miami-Dade plus central and north Florida — voted down Tuesday an attempt take up a ban on assault weapons. Wouldn’t even consider allowing the issue to be discussed.
Reaction from the students was swift, poignant.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
If nothing was done after Sandy Hook, you ask, why think anything will change now?
Because the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student survivors won’t let us get away with forgetting the geography teacher, the athletic director and the football coach who died trying to protect them from bullets.
Because they won’t let us forget the 14 friends killed and many more injured — some heroes too, shot while saving others. They paid with their lives for decades of inaction, one mass killing after another.
Change won’t come easy, as they learned, but these students are the fierce voice of a generation on gun control. And they’re a ray of hope in an apathetic, gun-happy nation desensitized to violence.
We, the horrified adults, want to grab our kids and run from the gun madness. The students, armed with their fresh grief and outrage, are fighting for what they need from Tallahassee and Washington.
They were in elementary school themselves, or barely into the middle grades, in 2012 when 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut were slaughtered — and they know what happened before (more deaths) and after the tears dried: Nothing. Only hundreds of more deaths at the hands of criminals, terrorists, and madmen wielding weapons of war in our schools, our streets, our theaters, our concert venues, and our workplaces and houses of worship.
And each time, nothing was done to stop the running tally.
“Adults have failed us and kids are dying because of it,” said Adolfo Calderon, one of the hundreds of Parkland students who turned despair into instant activism right after surviving the carnage former student Nikolas Cruz unleashed on the school on Valentine’s Day.
Their classmates’ bodies were still being carried and they were already speaking out against assault weapons like the AR-15 rifle Cruz used. Bless them. Hear them. Honor them. Our police chiefs have, calling for a ban on assault weapons.
The bodies of these children are still being buried today. These students are attending funerals, grieving — and speaking out, no breaks. Hear them. Honor them. This is their most precious right.
The Stoneman Douglas High students are something to behold.
Not satisfied with politicians’ visit to Parkland to offer condolences but no solutions, they descended — two buses full — on the gun-happy Florida Legislature on Tuesday, where the usual pro-gun lot of lawmakers was scurrying to consider age limits and waiting periods on assault weapons.
Tweeted student Sarah Chadwick: “‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ That quote is plastered high on a staircase in Douglas. I read it every day while walking to class, and now I’m here truly trying to be a change in the world.”
Gov. Rick Scott, blessed with an A+ rating from the NRA for putting the pro-gun agenda first, is running as fast as he can from the students. He won’t be able to hide all the time. Schools all over Florida are following Douglas’ lead and staging anti-gun walk outs and rallies.
What’s different now?
These kids are smart, brave, committed — the most formidable force I’ve seen on the issue of gun control, because they’re natural-born communicators in the age of the Internet. They don’t need handlers. They speak from experience, grief and anger at an America that failed them horribly. They’re intellectually eloquent, yet not bound by adult rules of propriety. They’ve called out thoughts and prayers for what they are, a hypocritical washing of the hands.
They won’t be silenced nor intimidated by trolls, bots, pundits and politicians who act like trolls and bots, including the president.
Watch Chadwick take down former congressman and CNN commentator Jack Kingston, a Trump mouthpiece who tried to discredit the student movement, tweeting: “O really? ‘Students’ are planning a nationwide rally? Not left wing gun control activists using 17yr kids in the wake of a horrible tragedy?”
Chadwick: “Hey Jack! Just wanted to let you know that, yes! Us 17yrs really are planning a nationwide rally! It’s crazy what determination, and a strong work ethic can lead to! But I mean you have neither of those things so I wouldn’t expect you to understand. #NEVERAGAIN”
The score: 484 liked Kingston, 73,000 were on Chadwick’s corner.
People are seeing these teens — and supporting them.
George and Amal Clooney made a $500,000 donation Tuesday to help make the students’ “March for Our Lives” in Washington a reality.
“Our family will be there on March 24 to stand side by side by this generation of incredible young people from all over the country,” Clooney said in a statement.
These students own the moral high ground and the facts — and they’ve made the national conversation about guns their business now. They’ve put Washington and Tallahassee to shame by calling out NRA-beholden politicians and are forcing lawmakers to address issues, to work on gun-safety measures now, not later.
They see right through the Republican obstructionism that has kept all meaningful reform from even being tackled by Congress, much less voted into law. They see right through the Florida Legislature’s commitment to the advancement of the business interests of the NRA versus theirs. And they see right through President Donald Trump’s efforts to blame the school shootings on the FBI mishandling of the tips about Cruz, which fits right into his agenda of discrediting the Russia investigation.
What’s different now?
The Sandy Hook parents raised their voices — they still do. But this cowardly nation, so afraid of the potential external boogeyman but never the real one inside the gates, only upped the ante and stock-piled even more assault rifles. People bought into NRA scare campaigns alleging that President Barack Obama was going to disarm Americans.
Congress showed no sympathy for their grief.
This time, the students won’t let you get away with forgetting the victims.
You. Will. Listen.
They’re a movement and, soon, they’ll be old enough to vote.