After years of dejection, proponents of gun laws see hope

  • In Business/Economy
  • 2018-02-24 18:18:07Z
  • By Matt Sedensky and Terry Spencer, Associated Press
After years of dejection, proponents of gun laws see hope
After years of dejection, proponents of gun laws see hope  

PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) -- The progression has become numbingly repetitive - mass bloodshed unleashed by a gunman, followed by the stories of the fallen, the funerals, the mourning, the talking heads and the calls for change that dwindle into nothingness.

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, though, has some pondering the improbable: Could this latest carnage actually lead to gun reforms?

Alongside the familiar refrains stemming from earlier shootings, the Feb. 14 attack in Parkland, Florida, came with something else: young survivors immediately pleading for nationwide action. They have led walk-outs, confronted politicians and garnered the support of celebrities, linking their sorrowful, eloquent, outraged voices to the gun debate.

"Our kids have started a revolution," Stoneman Douglas teacher Diane Wolk Rogers said during a CNN-sponsored forum Wednesday.

In the aftermath of the violence that claimed 17 lives, students have piled into buses and crashed a meeting of lawmakers in Tallahassee. They've relentlessly badgered Florida Sen. Marco Rubio about his support from the National Rifle Association. They've rejected President Trump's condolences, calling for action over words.

To many advocates for gun control, the moment feels more profound than any since the aftermath of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 first-graders and six adults were fatally shot, spurring the most serious congressional gun debate in years.

"The mantra just became if we couldn't do it after Newtown, if we couldn't do it after however many 6-year-olds were killed, it's never going to happen," said Dave Cullen, the author of "Columbine," which chronicles the 1999 shooting at the Colorado high school of the same name.

"Then this happened," Cullen said, "and everything changed."

Parkland is a well-to-do suburb, with a median household income more than twice the national average. Stoneman Douglas is a top-tier public school under the state rating system, where most students take advanced-placement classes and the curriculum includes yoga and culinary arts.

Charles Zelden, a professor of history and political science at Nova Southeastern University in nearby Fort Lauderdale, said the students speaking out in the shooting's aftermath "come from a tradition of being heard and are angry enough right now that they won't stand for not being heard."

"They're used to the idea that they're going to make a difference, that people are going to listen to them," Zelden said.

Cullen wonders whether the Parkland attack indicates that it's not the number of deaths or level of outrage that a shooting evokes, but "whether it's the right group of people with the right standing and the right set of abilities that picks up the ball and runs with it."

He's been awed that the tragedy produced not just one well-spoken young student activist, but a deep bench of them.

Emma Gonzalez stirred a huge crowd with shouts of "Shame on you!" directed at lawmakers. David Hogg has emerged as a media star, giving poised interview after interview. Sarah Chadwick, whose angry tweet to Trump went viral, stirred those gathered in the state Capitol rotunda with what she promised was a revolution on behalf of fallen friends.

"Never again should a child be afraid to go to school," she said. "Never again should students have to protest for their lives."

Andy Pelosi, a co-chair of the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, has spent the past two decades fighting for gun control and watching in despair as a stream of tragedies seemed to bring little meaningful change. He, likewise, was struck by students' collective response.

"I'd like to think this is different," Pelosi said, noting that the students' impassioned actions are helping galvanize a movement, even if they face formidable odds.

"And if you look at our history, the main social movements in our country have been fueled by students," Pelosi said.

In matching a $500,000 donation by George and Amal Clooney to the students' planned marches against gun violence, Oprah Winfrey compared the teens to the Freedom Riders of the 1960s, who rode buses into southern states in protest of racial segregation - and others shared that sentiment.

Jacob Udo-Udo Jacob, a professor at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania who studies social media-fueled activism, said the students have a chance to stir something equally profound.

Jacob cited Rosa Parks' arrest in the fight for civil rights and street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation in Tunisia, which led to the Arab Spring.

"Any movement, historically, it's down to narratives, how the movement is framed," Jacob said.

The teens don't agree on all issues, but most want AR-15s banned and the age for buying rifles in Florida raised to 21, as it is for handguns. Many want all semi-automatic rifles banned. Uniformly, they want stronger background checks so people like the 19-year-old shooter, who was known to be mentally unstable and violent, cannot buy guns.

Their message seems to already be having at least some effect, with Trump, Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott all taking some steps toward greater gun regulation. Rubio said his visit to Stoneman Douglas is what prompted him to change his stance on large-capacity magazines.

Alongside the reasons for hope, though, have been signs of the tough road ahead.

Some conservatives have portrayed the teens as pawns being exploited to take away constitutional rights, with the NRA insisting that liberals want to ban all guns. Far-right voices have even sought to advance the lie that some of the students are "crisis actors," essentially paid puppets helping advance an anti-gun agenda.

"Everything they're doing is right out of the Democrat Party's various playbooks," Rush Limbaugh said of the students on his show Monday.

To Dr. Allen Konis, whose son is a freshman at Stoneman Douglas, the students are so inspiring that "even their enemies are taking notice." ''They are worried, and they should be," Konis said, "because they are going to start a real movement in this country."

After watching Virginia Tech and Orlando and Las Vegas and so many other places become mile markers in the thwarted march to pass significant federal gun laws, the voices of Parkland's teens are bringing hope to advocates craving change.

"Nobody's going to stop these kids," said Mike McFadden, a 59-year-old retired police officer who drove several hours from his home in Indialantic to visit Stoneman Douglas, where a makeshift memorial of 17 white crosses is surrounded by mounds of flowers.

Alissa Parker, who co-founded Safe and Sound Schools after her daughter Emilie was killed at Sandy Hook, said the Stoneman Douglas students simply want to feel safe. It makes her remember how Emilie would run to protect her little sisters if they ever felt scared.

"I look at them," Parker said, "and I'm inspired."


Sedensky reported from New York. Associated Press writers Kelli Kennedy in Parkland, Fla., and Jennifer Kay in Miami contributed to this report.


Sedensky can be reached at or


More Related News

Trump says would intervene in arrest of Chinese executive
Trump says would intervene in arrest of Chinese executive

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he would intervene with the U.S. Justice Department in the case against a Chinese telecommunications executive if it would help secure a trade deal with Beijing. "If I think it's good for the country, if I think it's good for what will be certainly the

California judge orders porn star to pay Trump legal fees
California judge orders porn star to pay Trump legal fees

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Porn star Stormy Daniels must pay President Donald Trump nearly $293,000 for his attorneys' fees and another $1,000 in sanctions after her defamation suit against him was dismissed, a federal judge in Los Angeles ordered Tuesday.

Republicans beginning to worry about Trump re-election
Republicans beginning to worry about Trump re-election

President Donald Trump's intensifying legal troubles are unnerving some of his fellow Republicans. Trump, ever confident of his ability to bend story lines to his will, mocks the investigations into his conduct as candidate and president as a "witch hunt" and insists he will survive the

Pence aide out of running to be Trump
Pence aide out of running to be Trump's next chief of staff

President Donald Trump evaluated new candidates to serve as his next chief of staff Sunday after plans for an orderly succession for departing John Kelly fell through. No obvious successor was in sight and there was some fretting that Trump may not be able to fill the job by the time Kelly was set to

Top House Dems raise prospect of impeachment, jail for Trump
Top House Dems raise prospect of impeachment, jail for Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) - Top House Democrats on Sunday raised the prospect of impeachment or almost-certain prison time for President Donald Trump if it's proved that he directed illegal hush-money payments to women, adding to the legal pressure on the president over the Russia investigation and other scandals

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: Economy

Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.