- By Frank Cerabino Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
I wouldn’t bet against the kids.
The teenagers of South Florida, led by the upper-middle class teenagers of one public high school in an affluent slice of South Florida, have been kicking butt and taking names for nearly two weeks now, and they’re just getting started.
The kids of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland are turning out to be doing far more leading than following on the issue of gun control, a once-calcified issue that had practically been rendered moot, despite the regular drumbeat of mass shootings.
Take 18-year-old senior Emma González, the daughter of a lawyer and the president of her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. She was an anonymous teenager two weeks ago. Today, her brand-new Twitter account @Emma4Change has more than 1 million followers — well on her way to doubling the 594,000 followers the NRA Twitter site has amassed over its nine-year history.
Here’s González in action, talking on camera after a mass shooting at her school killed 17 people.
“The adults in power who are funded by the NRA, I don’t even think we need them anymore, because they’re going to be gone by midterm elections,” she said. “There’s barely any time for them to save their skins.
“And if they don’t turn around right now, and state their open support for this movement, they’re going to be left behind, because you are either with us or against us at this point.”
If the shooting at Parkland had happened in some school in a poor neighborhood, I doubt the students there would have reacted with same kind of this-won’t-stand outrage we’ve seen from the teenagers in Parkland. And the debate over banning AR-15-style weapons for civilian use would already be a non-issue.
But these Parkland kids have been raised with a sense of entitlement, with the idea that the world is waiting for them, and that “No” isn’t a final answer, but an opening gambit. And that if you don’t like something, you send it back to the kitchen, call somebody to complain, or give it one-star rating.
These are kids who aren’t being brought up to settle, but to prevail. Many of their elders thought they were lost in the insular world of their cell phones, but the shooting at their school and its aftermath have caused them to pick up their heads and arrive in the real world in a very big way.
And it’s remarkable to see how quickly they mobilized a nation of their peers, and by doing so, have rocked the adult world into a wary and respectful silence. The adults are running scared for good reason.
Young people are notoriously casual voters. Especially in mid-term elections. In Florida, only about one out of every five registered voters between the ages of 18 29 showed up to vote in the 2014 midterm elections, which is less than half the average turnout.
But right off the bat, these kids knew where to aim their punches: at the ballot box. And it is moving a once-frozen needle.
The Parkland kids may be why U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio professed to realize for the first time last week that high-capacity magazines might lead to more deaths in these mass shootings.
“I have traditionally not supported looking at magazine clip size and after this and some of the details I have learned about it, I am reconsidering that position and I’ll tell you why,” he said during a CNN televised town hall last week. “Because while it may not prevent an attack, it may save lives in an attack.”
Is it credible that Rubio, who has been a lawmaker capable of regulating guns and ammo for the past 18 years, only figured out last Wednesday that you can kill more people with magazine clips that fire more rounds before needing to be reloaded?
The Parkland kids may be why U.S Rep. Brian Mast, an Army veteran who took $32,000 from the NRA in the last election cycle and has had nothing to say about the civilian use of AR-15 weapons after other mass shootings since his election, is now calling for them to be banned.
“I cannot support the primary weapon I used to defend our people being used to kill children I swore to defend …” he wrote in an op-ed piece for The New York Times.
“The AR-15 is an excellent platform for recreational shooters to learn to be outstanding marksmen. Unfortunately, it is also an excellent platform for those who wish to kill the innocent.”
The Parkland kids may be why Florida Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, who last week voted with other Republicans in the Florida House not to consider a ban on the AR-15, changed his mind by this week. Tuesday, Hager became the lone Republican to join the Democrats in Florida House Appropriations Committee, to call for the ban on the assault rifles.
The Parkland kids are leading and the so-called leaders are following.
Tuesday night, Jimmy Fallon, took a moment from his NBC-TV late-night show, to congratulate the Parkland kids and to say he and his family would be standing with them on “The March for Our Lives,” an event planned in the nation’s capital on March 24.
“I think what the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are doing is unbelievable,” Fallon told his TV audience. “They’re speaking out with more guts, passion, conviction and common sense than most adults …
“That strength that they have is inspiring,” Fallon continued. “They’re angry. And they’re doing something about it and creating change. This is a real revolution.”
So you can put your money on the NRA, the perennial favorite, but I wouldn’t bet against the kids.