OK, my glass was full yesterday, so sue me. First of all, I was thrilled that while he voiced concern and opposition to the clause about arming certain school employees, Florida Governor Rick Scott did not use this as an excuse to veto the gun control bill the legislature passed. Especially since all of the major school districts have already indicated that they will opt out of participation in that program. But I was even more tickled pink by the NRA’s righteous, but likely impotent outrage of Scott’s signing the bill by filing a lawsuit against it even before the ink was dry. Talk about a twofer day!
The Florida legislators in the House were particularly pleased with themselves, as well they should be, shaking hands and hugging after the bill passed comfortably. But in their body language, and the looks on their faces, I got the distinct impression that mixed in with their feeling of accomplishment, was a sense of relief that they had put this issue behind them. And if that is the case, then I think they’re about to be sorely disappointed.
Before Scott even signed the bill into law, Stoneman Douglas students who were interviewed were unanimous in the opinion that while they felt that this was a good, and necessary first step, a first step was all it is. They are resolute in their commitment to obtaining an outright ban on the sale, and hopefully even possession, of semi automatic assault style weapons in the state of Florida. And this early taste of success is only going to fuel their fire.
As you read this, we are 4 days away from a planned 17 minute national walkout by students in support of the goals of the students at Stoneman Douglas high school, one minute for each student and faculty member killed. The walkouts are being planned nationwide, and a simple Google search shows a large number of links to specific protests scheduled all over the country. And we are exactly 14 days from a planned mass rally in Washington DC, as well as other cities nationwide, to highlight this issue, with some organizers planning for a possible turnout to top 500,000 in Washington DC.
The next two weeks may well be critical to this fledgling movement. If participation is light, especially in the DC rally, lawmakers may begin to believe that the danger is past, that the movement is losing steam. But if there is a robust participation, especially at the DC rally, then the students at Stoneman Douglas, as well as other high schools in the state are going to feel that they have a mandate, and they’re going to push. Hard. And it isn’t just Florida lawmakers that are at risk. If there is major participation in large cities in other states, then their students may well be motivated to take measures into their own hands as a preventative tool for their survival. There is one good reason to believe that a state by state national movement may spring out of this.
These kids are zen masters of social media. While your average legislator may not know that you separate multiple e-mail addresses with a “;”, these kids can organize an after school get together for 50 while they’re walking between classes. They’ve been using social media since first grade. And if students in other schools in other states decide that this is something that they can do to ensure as much as possible that they personally don’t have to suffer the agonies of their Stoneman Douglas brethren, then using MSD as a hub, these kids are going to be able to put together a network that would make the director of the FAA want to sit down and cry.
If this happens, then state legislators are going to be between a rock, and a very hard nother rock, just as the Florida legislators were. State legislative districts are smaller than their national counterparts, so the electoral margin for error is smaller. And state legislators do not get the kind of cash largesse from the NRA that their national cousins do. These state legislators are not planning on remaining state legislators forever, and getting beaten in a state election is going to dim their chances of ever getting to Washington, or running for state Senate or Governor. Even if they survive inaction this year, how many of those students will turn 18 between now and 2020? The mechanics of gun legislation is much trickier in states, especially states where the passion level for gun ownership is not that high. The pressure will be on, especially in purple states.
If states start to enact more restrictive gun laws under pressure, this impacts the US congress in two ways. First, voters in states where new laws are enacted that are more in line with the seeming values expressed in national polling are going to wonder why their national incumbents are so paralyzed by the pressure of the NRA. If there’s one thing that a craven coward NRA incumbent doesn’t need, it’s his constituents starting to wonder why he or she doesn’t seem to mind if their kids get shot in class. And second, if states start enacting serious gun legislation, the NRA is going to conclude very quickly that the laxest possible national gun laws are worthless if the individual states are going to render them useless with restrictive laws of their own. The NRA only has so much cash to go around, and more spent in individual state races to prop up their friendly legislators is going to mean less money going to US incumbents that can’t do them any good in the first place. Constituents angry at their inaction on guns, and less NRA pocket cash is a potentially lethal combination.
Mark my words, something has fundamentally changed in this country. The #metoo movement has put abusers on notice that victim shame will no longer provide them cover. The Resistance, and the citizen-politicians it has spawned are sending a clear warning to both parties in this country that the people are taking their politics back, the rejection of the GOP healthcare dismantlement efforts fueled the outrage we are seeing at ballot boxes all over the country. And the audacious courage of the students of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school in standing up to the NRA are an inspirational reminder to all that Goliath’s are still susceptible to pebbles, if they hit the proper mark. Gulliver has awoken from his slumber, and those puny ropes are not going to keep him down. Get out of the way, or get stepped on, it’s your choice.