Have you noticed that all the great social movements of the past half-century have been led by the young? The sit-ins and freedom rides, Mississippi Freedom Summer, the antiwar movement, the Dump Johnson children’s crusade.
Now comes the long-deferred backlash against the lunacy of the NRA, which has held too many Democrats as well as Republicans hostage. And it’s being led by outraged high school students.
Once the NRA got captured by absolutists, the gun lobby became adamantly opposed to any compromise, as a slippery slope towards “taking away our guns.” Too many liberals and moderates, characteristically, tried seeking common ground.
Suppose we redefine the issue as gun safety rather than gun control? Nope. Suppose we just ban assault weapons? Sorry, the Second Amendment gives everyone a right to an AK-47. The NRA even opposes the pathetic “reform” of age limits for purchases of military-style weapons.
Let’s face it—there is no common ground. And now, thanks to high school students calling BS where their adult leaders were too quick to flinch, we have a chance at putting serious gun control back on the agenda.
We could be at a tipping point. If you need a license to drive, to fish, to marry, to hunt, with databases to match, we need strict licensing for guns. And strict limits on what kinds of firearms are permitted at all. If you want to fire machine guns, the army will welcome you.
Could a groundswell of political revulsion of one mass killing of children too many turn the tide? Our leaders just need to catch up with the kids.
My friend Drew Westen, author of the brilliant book on political language, The Political Brain, proposed a TV spot, back in 2007. It has a political candidate with a hunting rifle in one hand and an AK-47 in the other. The candidate says:
This [pointing to the gun on his left] is a rifle. This [the gun on his right] is an assault weapon. People like you and me use this one to hunt. Criminals, terrorists, and deranged teenagers use this one to hunt police officers and our children. Law-abiding citizens have the right to own one of these. Nobody has the right to threaten our kids’ safety with one of these. Any questions?