On Saturday, I will join with young people across the nation as they lead the March for Our Lives. I will join with them because they are the future and they are trying to do what I couldn’t. They are working to get our politicians to stand up to the National Rifle Association. I support the young people of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who lost 17 of their classmates and teachers in just the latest incident of gun violence in our schools.
I will join Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, and Ryan Deitsch among so many other brave students who have spoken out and worked to plan this march. Their voices mean something and they must be supported. My generation has clearly failed them in this area. We have not convinced American voters that we are not opposed to the Second Amendment but simply believe weapons of war do not belong on our streets.
There was one short period of time when a bill passed Congress following a close 52-48 vote in the Senate in 1994 and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton making certain assault weapons and large capacity magazines illegal. But the bill was written to sunset after 10 years, which it did in 2004. Since then, Congress has refused to reauthorize the ban or pass any common sense gun control. Interestingly several constitutional challenges were filed against provisions of the ban, but all were rejected by courts.
Now, 14 years later, the NRA is stronger than ever. They pour millions of dollars into elections scaring candidates and their own members with lies about what any common sense legislation would mean. They are the big bully these young people are taking on. During a national student walkout last Wednesday the NRA responded by tweeting a photo of an AR-15. But to their credit these students from Parkland, and those students across the nation who joined with them, are not scared of the NRA. They joined the walk-out in just about every state and every community large and small. Many who did so defied their school administrators who threatened them with repercussions if they walked out. These young people showed us once again with incredible courage what peaceful civil disobedience means.
Another bill passed during Bill Clinton’s presidency and signed by him was the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. It was meant to ensure background checks on purchases of handguns and mandated a five-day waiting period to purchase a gun. The NRA funded lawsuits in many states trying to have the bill declared unconstitutional. Eventually one section of the bill was found to be unconstitutional but the bill remains basically intact. But as we have seen it has so many loopholes that for years we have known it needed amending but the NRA has successfully fought that and nothing has been done.
There have been countless shootings in schools and public places since that time yet no group that has come together after those shootings has made the impact the students in Parkland appear to be having. It may be their ability to use social media; their clear intellect and ability to speak in public; their understanding of how to use the media; or just their drive and perseverance that could make the difference this time.
We cannot leave them out there alone. I call on everyone in my generation, every millennial and all those in the generations in between to join with the young people of Parkland and step forward on Saturday, March 24. There are currently 808 cities and towns around the world that have announced marches in support of March for Our Lives.
We must stand up to the NRA and the politicians who take their money. If a young high school student, Cameron Kasky, has the guts to stand up on national television and demand Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) stop taking money from the NRA surely we can make our voices heard with his.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.