Don Rogers: Taking on Goliath
March 30, 2018
Good luck, conservatives, with trying to peg the Parkland teens as dupes of liberal organizations.
You've got it just about backward. The survivors of the latest high school massacre are the seed crystal, the catalyst, of the walkouts and marches and rallies for better school safety and gun control across the country. They're followers only of their consciences so far as I can tell.
Of course gun control advocates will glom on, try to metastasize protest into a movement, just as the National Rifle Association continues to exercise its even more considerable influence in high places.
There's politics in all of this? Gomer Pyle had an apt expression for my surprise. Of course there is, in every which way. That's hardly the point.
The kids have had enough.
The walkouts were about the deaths, 17 this time, from yet another mass shooting on a campus. They were about the means of these slaughters. They were about adults dithering as always and doing nothing.
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Frankly, the NRA has succeeded in ensuring the dithering continues with the president, who made some promising remarks about safety measures before taking them back, and both houses of Congress. Congratulations. I'm cynical, I realize, seeing cash logic and fear mongering hard at work here. As if the Second Amendment were really at stake. As if.
And we wonder why the kids are marching?
The conservative derision of the kids' protests is cynical, too. The gun lobby has proven stronger than any other. So it's a bit rich to suggest that the kids are not genuine, that their concerns only look widespread thanks to "community organizers," that they can't think for themselves, that they've been co-opted by teachers and advocates and, gasp, Democrats.
High school classrooms recently emptied for 20 minutes across the country, including Truckee, Nevada Union and Bear River. Educators ranged from facilitating orderly protest, as they did in our county, to trying to lock the students in. The lock and key approach didn't work so well in at least some schools across the country.
But a Rocklin High School teacher was placed on administrative leave after she raised the question whether educators would permit students to walk out without penalty if their walkout were over, say, the anti-abortion March for Life.
School district officials said they didn't put her on leave because of her question, going with something in vague bureaucratic-speak about her communication style.
Seems to me she had a valid topic for discussion, even if I don't agree with her premise that one protest is the same as another. This one hit much closer to home. And educators would be no more understanding with a pro-abortion rally. The teacher kind of missed the point, but that's hardly a punishable offense. More teachable moment, her job.
Do educators support limits on firearms? Well, plenty do, as the nation's majority does now, maybe more so than gun rights supporters want to admit. As many as half of gun owners themselves support tougher limits than exist now. These measures run a gamut from the ease of buying firearms to the availability of in essence weapons of mass destruction and their accouterments, such as the infamous bump stock and higher capacity magazines.
An irony, perhaps, is that gun rights supporters are right that outlawing AR-15s and similar rifles, limiting the rounds in magazines, raising the age of legal purchase and so on would do little to stop public massacres.
I know, tell that to the people subjected to the horrors at Columbine, Sandy Hook and Parkland.
Mass shootings anywhere are incredibly rare for all the news about them. The majority of these events are carried out with conventional firearms, and the average age of a shooter is 34.
Relying on good people with guns fighting bad people with guns, well, that's a bit spotty. Conservatives like to point to the school resource officer who confronted the high schooler who killed a girl in a lover's quarrel as if he were a mass attacker. The shooter shot himself in the head as the officer fired. However this ended, though, the officer did the hardest part of his job.
And there's the officer in Parkland who apparently lost his nerve and stayed outside the school while the shooter spent six minutes mowing down everyone he could find.
The school resource officer at Columbine traded fire with the two kids who carried out their attack. He didn't stop them.
Gun control won't end school and other public massacres, at least not alone. The president wasn't wrong about improving mental health care, though that hardly is a panacea, either.
I do see both, as well as the daily presence of well-trained school resource officers, as part of the overall answer, though, or at least as a means of making the rare event even more so.
And certainly there are sensible firearms restrictions, just as there are with the First Amendment, starting with not falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater, part of Supreme Court lore.
If these young Davids manage to crack the NRA on the head, good for them, I think. That Goliath could use the comeuppance. And so could too many grownups acting childishly.
Don Rogers is the publisher of the Truckee Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299.