Saturday, 24 February 2018

Why this shooting was different

After the tragic school shooting in Parkland, gun control advocates wearily prepared for the identical cycle of public discussion that happens after every mass shooting. Politicians would offer their much-mocked "thoughts and prayers" for the first few days. Then the vicious and unproductive online arguments, which involve the exact same arguments every time, would begin between gun control advocates and right-wingers. Democrats would filibuster and speak passionately on the Senate floor, but a vote on anything meaningful would fail to happen. 

Image result for cycle of gun control discussion

Something was different this time. This time the survivors spoke out. Normally the survivors of mass shootings try to be apolitical for various reasons. Some think it's disrespectful. Others are grieving and not in the position to take political fire. Still others are jaded and have lost all hope that Congress would do anything. The kids of Parkland, however, were different. They watched their friends die after hearing about other shootings on the news and realized that this had happened before and the government could have done something. Their friends didn't have to die. So, despite their grief and trauma, the kids of Parkland stood up and hurled themselves into the firestorm that is politics. They are uniquely positioned to be extremely effective activists.

They do not share the cynicism of the adults and know that if they act then action can happen. They are extremely motivated for obvious reasons. In the political arena, their experience gave them credibility and as trauma victims shielded them from some vicious political attacks. We see evidence of their effect. It's been ten days since the shooting and by now the conversation is winding down. Not this time. Recently President Trump hosted a public conversation with the survivors and CNN hosted a town hall where the kids publicly confronted politicians. The Oregon State legislature passed a bill banning domestic abusers from buying guns. Most significantly, businesses have begun to announce they would no longer give NRA members benefits as part of the #BoycottNRA movement. 

The crossed-out are businesses who renounced their sponsorship programs.

Part of the NRA's power is its five million members, the NRA's foot soldiers against gun control across the country. The NRA collects membership fees, which it uses to lobby and influence politicians in Washington. One of the reasons members join the NRA is that NRA members get benefits. For example, the Bank of Omaha offers NRA members a special credit card that gives them cash back on gas and sporting goods. Various other companies offer benefits. Recently, companies have began to dissociated themselves with the NRA and stop offering benefits citing public outcry. 

However, the public response has also been remarkable for its viciousness. Mainstream Republicans like Donald Trump Jr have accused the kids of speaking scripted lines. Some have started calling the kids "crisis actors." Conservative pundit Dinesh D'Souza mocked the kids.

Speaking of the online front, there is now a renewed pushback against right-wing gun rights arguments. Memes, which normally lean to the right after mass shootings, now mock "thoughts and prayers" and the proposal to arm teachers.

Where the adults have failed us, the next generation will not.

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