Spring is traditionally a time when schoolchildren come to the nation’s capital to learn about their government. But on Saturday it was the students — tens of thousands of them from all across the country — who did the schooling, with a mighty march on Washington calling for a stop to gun violence. Angry with government failure to protect them, disgusted that their safety comes second to the gun lobby, they demanded reform of gun laws. Now.
We know. Washington has seen a lot of marches. And it is probably folly to expect action from a Congress so resistant to change. But it was impossible, listening to the students’ heartfelt stories and seeing the numbers that overflowed Pennsylvania Avenue and the streets of other cities, not to be encouraged and to hope that these young people will succeed where the adults have failed.
“Welcome to the revolution,” said Cameron Kasky, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting last month. “Since this movement began, people have asked me, do you think any change is going to come from this? Look around. We are the change.” Among the striking things about the crowd was how diverse it was: There were young and old, black and white, suburban and inner-city, Democrat and Republican.
It was just 38 days ago that a gunman went on his murderous rampage in Cameron’s South Florida school. Unlike some other terrible shootings of recent years, the tragedy did not quickly fade from memory but instead became the catalyst for the survivors to start their own movement for change. Unafraid of the National Rifle Association and adept at social media, they have already scored some successes.
Businesses have taken action: Some cut ties with the NRA, and others changed their policies on gun sales. Florida passed its first gun-control measure in more than 20 years, including raising the minimum age for all gun purchases and giving greater authority to police to confiscate guns from those deemed dangerous. On the eve of Saturday’s march, Congress approved an omnibus budget bill that included a modest strengthening of the national background check system and lifted the odious ban on federal gun research. President Donald Trump announced his administration will issue new rules to ban bump stocks.
Those measures, while welcome, are only baby steps in what is needed to better regulate guns and those who have access to them. Among the reforms cited by students taking the stage Saturday and those marching and carrying signs: a ban on assault-style weapons and large-capacity magazines, expanded and universal background checks, and raising the legal age to purchase guns to 21.
It remains to be seen if the students will succeed in getting Congress to take some action. But they made one thing pretty clear — they aren’t going away. When they are able to vote — and for many, that will be soon — they could ensure that those who do go away are the ones who stand in the way of protecting lives.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE WASHINGTON POST