WASHINGTON — At best the children’s crusade to remove the battlefield weapons from our streets (and schools) is a very long shot, but a noble one that gives the nation the first slim chance to resolve the escalating crises of how to prevent another massacre.
If the candle of despair over what has become a tragedy so routine that it is shrugged off routinely can stay lit long enough there is an opportunity that it could give, to quote Edna Millay, “a wondrous light” that even the most diehard defenders of unfettered gun rights might be forced to retreat. The president, it seems, would arm a percentage of the 3.4 million public and private teachers at risks.
What is all this but a battleground as authentic as Antietam or Anzio? That is how the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., regard the death of 17 of their friends and teachers and are committed to stopping it. The beloved World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle, in one of his last columns before his death, wrote about the horrible monotony of the bodies piled one on another over the years.
This driving anger and sickness and fear that without exorcism seems certain of repetition is shared by the young to near hysteria. And with good reason. The Supreme Court’s interpretation a decade ago of the Second Amendment right as individual not collective has fostered the carnage left by access without meaningful challenge to weapons of mass destruction.
We common Americans know all this just as the members of Congress who continue to take National Rifle Association money to finance their re-election campaigns. What we also know is that we are selling chances on the lives of our children in every missed opportunity to correct the situation. The Second Amendment really only protects the manufacturer and seller, their right to peddle a commercial product. It also supports the sale of death not safety. It has no relationship whatsoever to its original purpose; and today’s guns have no resemblance to the original product, except they both expel a deadly projectile. Also, there are vast differences in their geophysical impacts: What was mainly wilderness has become millions of Americans living in close proximity.
The youngsters thus are faced with a Congress and a high court so far intractable. The first is hobbled by the coffers of the gun lobby and the second by a flawed constitutional mandate. Neither seems capable of stopping the death toll or restoring the mental well-being of our children nationwide. If “lawmakers” refused to take action when a monster walked into an elementary school and murdered 20 babies, are they going to do so when the victims are teenagers?
The answer seems logical: of course not. But the Florida school is one of the best public institutions in the country and its students come from families with the ability to match the necessary dedication. It will be a long-term expensive drive that will include defeating some of the NRA’s darlings like Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who took it on the chin pretty heavily in his forum with the crusaders on national television last week.
This cause will require strong backing and direction from major adult anti-gun groups and converts who are suddenly revolted by the slaughter. Several celebrities already have pledged sizable contributions to their cause.
The NRA is a cohesive smooth-running operation as well-funded as any lobby in history. It got where it did by convincing a huge number of Americans that without their firearms they will be vulnerable to all sorts of atrocities, including murderous incursions into our institutions.
My, my, could that happen?
The biggest deterrent to success may be the students themselves. While no one can question their fervor, they are preparing for the future both socially and academically at what should be one of the best times of their lives. Hopefully, they can spare enough of that precious time ultimately to save it from being stolen away by something called an AR-15 and other weapons designed for war.