For roughly two decades, we as a nation have been struggling with what do about school shootings. Democrats have consistently doubled down on stronger restrictions on gun access, while Republicans have emphasized the mental instability of the shooters. While logically a nonpartisan (or, at least, bipartisan) problem, the conversation about gun violence in schools has ossified into a party-line, gridlock-inducing issue.
Well-intentioned though thoughts and prayers may be, the body count from mass school shootings has climbed to 122 since Columbine, counting the Valentine’s Day shooting in Parkland, Florida, per Axios.
It appears, however, that enough might just be enough this time.
We now see Never Again MSD, an organization formed in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Though far from the first gun-control advocacy group, Never Again differs from the Brady Campaign, Moms Demand Action et al., in one important respect: its founders are students, including several survivors of the Parkland shooting.
Predictably, alt-right spawning grounds such as /r/The_Donald and Breitbart were quick to cast a pall of suspicion over these kids, claiming they (the student organizers in question) were actors, that CNN was feeding them questions.
When the CNN pre-Town Hall email transcripts were released and academic backgrounds verified, the dubious narrative performed a quick about-face, saying that the people who mere hours before had been devious, well-trained crisis actors (perhaps even undercover FBI operatives!) were actually just naïve children, well-intentioned youths still wet behind the ears who had yet to discover what the real world was actually like.
The rest of the world, however, thus far seems more receptive to Never Again’s message than Infowars would like.
Gearing up for the 2018 congressional midterm elections, Democratic challengers will be quick to steer political discussion toward gun control. And while Dems advocating for stronger regulation on the purchase of firearms is nothing new, in the wake of the Parkland shooting it just might be an issue that actually will get voters off their couches. (Voter turnout for midterm elections is notoriously dismal.)
It’s not just the voters who are listening, either.
Dick’s Sporting Goods announced this week that, effectively, assault-rifles and large-capacity magazines would no longer be available at their stores. Dick’s also increased the minimum age for any gun purchases to 21 years, and Wal-Mart quickly followed suit.
Whether these actions reflect a genuine concern for the well-being of American children or simply a savvy marketing turn is beside the point – Americans are speaking out against gun violence, and large corporations are listening.
Closer to home, Kroger, whose Fred Meyer stores sell firearms at a few dozen stores in Oregon and elsewhere, just announced on Thursday it will stop selling guns and ammunition to people younger than 21 years old. The supermarket chain, which sells guns at 44 stores in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska, said in a statement that it’s “taken a hard look at… policies and procedures for firearm sales” in response to “tragic events” in Florida and elsewhere. Mere hours later, the regional Bi-Mart chain announced it, would stop sales of guns and ammo to minors.
Even more businesses not directly connected to gun sales are taking a stance.
First National Bank of Omaha, Enterprise Rent-a-Car and Delta Airlines all indicated they would drop customer discounts for NRA members within a week of the Florida shooting. While the 5 percent discount may not amount to a significant amount of money, clearly the principle behind this move has gun-rights activists outraged: The Republican-controlled Georgia Legislature is debating dropping Delta’s $40-million tax break in response to the airline distancing itself from the NRA, with Lt. Gov Casey Cagle tweeting, “Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back.”
Pro-gun ideology is so deeply interwoven into conservative politics, in fact, that one of the most surprising twists in this fresh debate is that the President himself actually advocated for stronger measures on gun control in a bipartisan meeting on Wednesday.
Of course, this is coming from the same man who also advocated arming the nation’s teachers to prevent more shootings, so it’s important to take anything he has to say on the topic with a grain of salt. It’s also highly unlikely that a bill such as one he suggested would pass in the current GOP-controlled Congress. But this is all the more reason for Democratic candidates to center their campaigns around gun-control this year.
Now, these events aren’t necessarily a direct result of the Parkland survivors’ advocacy. It’s important to note that this is all taking place against a larger political and cultural backdrop, one going back decades. It’s not as if Donald Trump watched Never Again MSD reps speak on the news and thought to himself, “These guys are really on to something!” Or, that conservatives decided only yesterday that they liked guns or the NRA only recently became a major source of funding for the Republican party.
That said, these people – the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High – stepped into America’s spotlight in the wake of a tragedy and spoke with compassion and conviction about something they believed was not right, and America is actually listening, which is really incredible, if you think about it. People love to mock millennials and Gen Zers for being apathetic, easily distracted slacktivists, but the people who formed Never Again MSD are clearly anything but.
Historically, large cultural shifts and movements have often started with one person – Cesar Chavez, Rose McGowan on Harvey Weinstein, Rosa Parks, the Buddhist monk who set himself ablaze to protest the war in Vietnam. We often romanticize and idolize these people, but more often than not, they were, indeed, ordinary people.
It takes a lot of things to make a revolution, but it starts with a handful of ingredients: passion, sincerity, courage and conviction, and it appears as though the members of Never Again possess those in spades.
Maybe, just maybe, enough might actually be enough.