Lay Off the Kids

By Tony Wyman


Kids who have just experienced something no child should ever witness, the deaths and butchery of their classmates and teachers, are now under another attack, this time by a foe less lethal, but just as irrational, as the one that shot up Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Emma Gonzalez
Emma Gonzalez, a one of the student leaders at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where a former student killed 17 classmates and teachers, speaks at a Broward Country rally in favor of changes in the laws that govern gun control in the U.S.
(Photo credit RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)
Adults, many motivated by opposition to any free and open discussion of the rightful place of firearms in American society, aren’t pulling any punches in their assault on high schoolers Emma Gonzalez and her classmates.
What offense have these children committed that has incurred the wrath of so many adults? Emma and her friends have spoken out against weapons like the AR-15 that killed 17 of their classmates and teachers. They’ve had the temerity to demand that adults do something to address the problem, that they find real solutions to the slaughter of children in this country, something more than the impotent offers of “thoughts and prayers,” something more than gutless surrender to what many adults see as the inevitability of more violence in our nation’s schools.
“They are just tools of the liberal, anti-gun lobby!” charged one adult on Twitter. “They are being brainwashed by their teachers!” complained another.

Really? Which teachers? Ones like heroes Scott Beigel, Aaron Feis and Chris Hixon who gave their lives  protecting

Hero Aaron Fies
Assistant football coach and security guard Aaron Fies died using his body as a shield against the gunman’s bullets while four police officers waited outside for the shooting to stop.

the students under their care in Florida? Ones like those who secured the safety of their kids before they worried about their own well-being? Ones like the teachers at Sandy Hook, Columbine and Virginia Tech who died trying to save their students?

Now is certainly not the time to demonize teachers, the men and women who are, too often, the first adults trying to protect students on the battlegrounds that America’s schools have, too often, become.
Too often.
Now is also not the time to ask the American people to choose between our kids and teachers and the NRA, the organization that has stonewalled on meaningful gun law reforms, ones that wouldn’t violate the Second Amendment rights of a single law-abiding citizen, but that, just maybe, might prevent the next mass slaughter in one of our schools. If we are asked which group we will side with, it certainly won’t be Wayne Lapierre‘s.
Instead, it is time for the NRA to take the lead to defend the rights of lawful American gun owners by joining with police, educators, parents and, yes, students, who want to see meaningful reforms that protect them from the killers like those in Florida, Colorado and Connecticut. It is time the NRA decides that the lives of our children are more important than the revenue generated by scaring gullible Americans into believing the Second Amendment will be repealed by liberals.
It won’t be. Ever. And the NRA knows this.
There is no political will, even after Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Vegas and now Parkland to deprive law abiding citizens of their right to legally bear arms. There is no political math that gets us to the number of states necessary to repeal the Second Amendment. None. And, again, the NRA knows this.

Guns are here to stay in America.

They are a part of our culture, part of our self-image, part of what being American means to many people. In the hands of stable, law-abiding people, guns are not a threat to the children of this nation. But before he took a gun into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Nikolas Cruz was a law-abiding gun owner. And that is the problem. He never should have been. Based on what dozens of people knew about him before he murdered 17 good human beings, Mr. Cruz never should have been able to own a firearm.
Somehow, our laws and the systems in place to keep us safe from men like Mr. Cruz failed. This disturbed man, this hate-filled monster, this twisted wreck of a human being should have been in the custody of mental health experts well before he ended up in the custody of law enforcement. But that’s not how it turned out and we need to figure out what went wrong and fix it so it doesn’t happen again.
Because our laws often make it difficult for the police, for schools, for even parents to take the guns from people like Mr. Cruz, the surviving kids at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School want to see changes. Right now, they are calling for gun bans because guns are the most obvious thing for them to strike out against. It was a gun, not a knife or a bomb that killed their friends. But had it been something other than a gun, there is no doubt that Emma and her peers would still be fighting, still demanding that adults do something.
What they are really protesting against is the murder of their friends and the destruction of the innocent lives they knew. They are protesting being forced to be adults well before their time. They are scared and angry and worried that this will happen again to kids like them somewhere else. And they want it to stop.
Students line the fence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Students console one another outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School days after the shooting there. Memorials to the 17 dead line the fence erected to keep people away from the crime scene. (Photo credit New York Daily News)

We ignore them at our own risk. They are the adults of the next generation, the people who will make all the decisions that will affect our lives as we grow old. They are the ones who, unlike their parents, have never known a time when massacres in schools weren’t alarmingly common, when news outlets didn’t report the names of kids like them who were cut down in their youth while adults stood around offering nothing more than thoughts followed by inaction and prayers that weren’t answered. They are the people who have had enough of our inaction, of our refusal to quit arguing over threats to our gun ownership rights, threats that aren’t any more real than the voices in the heads of teen killers who shoot up their own schools. They are the ones who have chosen to do something, to act, to demand changes.

And if they don’t get them as kids, they sure as hell will get them as adults. If the NRA and gun rights extremists want to create a real threat to gun ownership in this country, the way to do that is to tell the kids who have said “enough” that living with school massacres is just the price of living in a free country. That is complete nonsense. Living with school massacres is the price of living in a country that doesn’t want to change, that cares more about politics than it does kids.
There are solutions to this crisis that both keep kids safe and that protect the rights of decent people to own firearms. We just have to find them. And we better do it soon before our kids lose what little faith in us they still have.
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