We might expect the usual, that after the horrendous murder of innocents last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., nothing will happen to change gun laws in America — no change forthcoming after a series of failures to protect our most vulnerable.
The people’s representatives have remained steadfast to the fatal goodness of the Second Amendment, reacting to multiple childhood murders with constitutional dogma, stiff arguments and furious inaction. That leads this frustrated citizen to consider a public-minded and mother-approved solution. With growing conviction to salvage the lives of children, our citizens — en masse — can bring needed change, but without the usual emphasis on the precious lives lost. Instead, and in true American fashion, the strategy of last resort — the down and the dirty — is the power of the dangling dollar.
We have seen it work internationally, and locally. Economic sanctions are the harsh but effective tools behind major political change.
A successful economic strategy for change was laid out in Colorado to uphold gay rights. In 1992, an anti-gay initiative met head-on with “Boycott Colorado.” In response to Coloradans’ “ballot-box bigotry,” organizations and individuals across the nation — effectively, millions of people — were ready to withhold discretionary spending money in defense of gay rights. The economic squeeze that followed forced cancellation of business and conventions. Far-reaching, the boycott reached New York restaurants that refused to serve products from the state. The Supreme Court finished the job in 1996, citing “equal protection” for all citizens.
The economic stress in that single state effectively moved change across all 50 states. Can economics again be applied to turn around the tragic circumstances behind a Valentine’s Day massacre in Florida? Like Colorado, the Sunshine State is a tourist magnet that involuntarily stepped forward in the nationwide battle over loose gun laws. No better or worse than many gun-friendly states, yet Florida sets up as a state that can ill-afford a well-organized economic boycott. Concerned citizens against gun violence might see this state as the perfect target for a campaign of economic hardship.
The boycott in Colorado gathered in a broad spectrum of Americans in favor of gay rights. We would expect the same broad spectrum — those who favor the sacred right of children to mature into adulthood — to wield harsh economic power against injustice, and soon after, bring repentant politicians to their knees in Tallahassee.
Imagine if only two important groups — families with schoolchildren and the nation’s public school teachers — withheld vacation dollars in a coordinated effort to force a change to existing gun laws. From families, a concerted “No!” to Florida airline travel; “No!” to beach resorts; “No!” to cruise ships; and “No!” to Orlando’s attractions. Now add a 50-states “No!” from public school teachers, those who carry equal heartache for the slain innocents. Like Colorado, Florida could become the vanguard for change nationwide through the coordinated citizen threat of economic hardship.
When government exhibits widespread impotence and little regard for children, massive public engagement is the only recourse; filling the streets, or better yet, combining economic might in this case to deliver the knockout blow to our assault-style, Second Amendment free-for-all.
Steve Watson, of Minneapolis, is a retired teacher.