But after the horror, South Florida did what South Florida always does — rally, push forward and triumph. The progress, the accomplishment — and even the hope — that bloomed in the intervening months were unimaginable in the days after the unimaginable happened.
The massacre at MSD was horrific, yes, but it also was a game-changer. Not even the 2012 massacre of 20 little schoolchildren and six of their teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, propelled ordinary Americans to angry and committed civic engagement — though, of course, it should have.
The biggest headlines after the shooting revolved around the young student leaders who crowded the state Legislature and pushed lawmakers and a governor who never intended to make it harder for people to buy firearms to do just that. Florida now has imposed waiting periods and raised the age of who can buy a weapon.
But the ripple effect coming out of Parkland didn’t stop at Florida’s northern border. Rather it turned into a wave of action nationwide. According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, legislators, both Republican and Democrat, passed 67 new gun-control laws in 26 states and Washington, D.C.
Several states, Florida included, passed red-flag, letting judges and other authorities temporarily remove guns from people deemed to be a danger. In fact, these measures made so much sense that even the NRA said it supported them.
That is influence, powerful and enduring — we hope.
The students took their movement on the road, coordinating the March for Our Lives and coaxing other young people in cities across the country to register to vote.
Department of State figures showed that young Floridians voted at a higher rate of 15 percentage points in the 2018 midterm election than they did in the 2014 midterm.
That’s likely one of the quieter effects of Parkland, though significant in getting this sometimes politically apathetic or skeptical demographic to engage at the polls. It also propelled a few unlikely people to run for office. Stay-at-home mom Cindy Polo, from northwest Miami-Dade, now is state Rep. Cindy Polo. She said that her bus trip to Tallahassee to lobby the Legislature alongside students led her to run for office. She even beat a better-funded candidate blessed by Speaker of the House Jose Oliva.
Gun-safety, however, likely will remain front and center as the issue to be tackled. Unfortunately, some of the gains made by Parkland students and their supporters could be reversed.
Consider, for instance: Florida House Bill 175 would repeal all of the gun-control measures that lawmakers passed last year. It would lower the age to buy a gun from 21 to 18 again and eliminate the three-day waiting period for purchasing a rifle or shotgun. In addition, gun owners would be allowed to carry bump stocks. The bill would restrict law-enforcement officers’ ability take guns from people deemed a risk.
Some lawmakers must think we’re not watching. In honor of the Parkland dead, let them know that we are.