March For Our Lives is the start of a movement

Saturday the world took to the streets with the kids from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Millions of teens and preteens — younger even — with adults of every age, marching in cities across the country and around the world. #nomore — #neveragain — #enough — #marchforourlives.

The March For Our Lives movement was created by the survivors of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre in Parkland, Florida. Their mission statement begins with:

“Not one more. We cannot allow one more child to be shot at school. We cannot allow one more teacher to make a choice to jump in front of a firing assault rifle to save the lives of students. We cannot allow one more family to wait for a call or text that never comes. Our schools are unsafe. Our children and teachers are dying. We must make it our top priority to save these lives.”

The teens got a legislative win in their home state and they are taking their cause to all 50 states, the territories and most importantly, the nation’s government located in the District of Columbia. The students, like a vast majority of Americans, want to reform gun control laws.

Is it possible? The National Rifle Association has the federal government, and many of the state governments, in a financial head lock. They have the kook right behind them too, ready to show up at the polls during the primaries to primary any GOP senator or representative they don’t believe is “conservative” enough.

Over a million people showed up in Washington, D.C. although the president had left town. He was down in Mar-a-Lago surfing — j/k — he was golfing. “The Donald don’t surf.” No matter. The March For Our Lives movement doesn’t need a president to be where he should be to make their statement heard around the world.

Congress is on a two-week hiatus for spring break, but several of the speakers in Washington, and across the nation, encouraged the young people to organize town halls and take their cause to the local offices of their representatives.

In Los Angeles about 55,000 marchers assembled at Pershing Square and marched to Grand Park where the participants included survivors from Columbine, Las Vegas and the Seal Beach salon shooting. It’s understandable if people forgot about that 2011 tragedy. A man enraged about a custody dispute with his ex-wife entered the salon where she worked and killed six women and two men. One of the men was actually killed outside the salon while seated in his car.

As one marcher said on Instagram: “700 events worldwide, more than 1 million people marched in the US and abroad, 17 lives ignited the fire, but thousands of lives have paid the price.”

So true. How many school-aged kids have died in the Los Angeles Area due to gun violence? In the San Diego and Bay Areas? Thousands. How many in the Chicago area? Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Detroit and Milwaukee?

Several of the Stoneman Douglas students said this cause was for the thousands of kids that are killed but don’t make the national headlines the way mass shootings do. Included in the list of speakers: Zion Kelly of Washington, D.C. spoke about his twin brother who was murdered in a robbery, 11-year-old Naomi Wadler who led a walkout of her Alexandria, VA elementary school. She spoke about the women and girls of color who are killed as a result of gun violence. Speakers from Chicago and Edna Chavez of Los Angeles whose brother was killed by a gun-wielding assailant. Chavez said she learned to duck from bullets before she learned how to read.

One of the strongest moments of the Washington march came when Emma Gonzalez read the names of her 17 schoolmates that were killed in Parkland and then led the giant crowd in four minutes of silence.

David Hogg has become the target of those people opposed to any sensible gun reform. He is a student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas and spoke about how his parents’ generation failed his generation. Apparently that was too disrespectful for some, more disrespectful than a guy walking into a school with an AR-15 and killing 17 people. You know, just like all the school walk-outs in the past five weeks were a bigger disruption of the educational process than a guy walking into a school with an AR-15 and killing 17 people. A bigger disruption than millions of kids around the country who have to take part in “shooter drills” and wonder if and when they will be next.

What do the students want? Comprehensive background checks for all gun purchases, with no loopholes, money for the CDC so the agency can study the epidemic of gun violence, a ban on high capacity magazines, bump stocks and assault weapons. Quite frankly though the best anyone can expect from the last three is an end to the sale of those items. I can’t imagine many of the millions of assault weapons, high capacity magazines and bump stocks getting turned in if such bans were enacted. The genie is out of the bottle on those things and it isn’t going back.

More assault weapons are sold than any other types of firearms. Thanks to the relentless message from the NRA that the left is coming to take their guns away. The NRA is happy to have another president in their pocket. That black guy was all about (not) taking away the more than 300 million privately owned guns in America. When Barack Obama left office and Donald Trump took the oath gun sales went down. Some gun manufacturers actually filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Rep. Barbara Lee meeting with students from Oakland who were in Washington, D.C. for the march (Rep. Lee office)

On the day before the march San Francisco Bay Area representative Barbara Lee welcomed students from Oakland into her office for some lunch and words of encouragement. In a statement to the press Lee said:

“I am so honored to have students from the East Oakland Youth Development Center participate in this important march to protest gun violence, as many of them know far too well the devastating effects of this violence.

“Tragic mass shootings, like the one in Parkland, Florida, galvanize attention on the gun control debate, but we cannot forget the reality of daily gun violence in Black and Brown communities. If we are serious about ending this senseless epidemic, we must address all forms of gun violence.

“I proudly support all of the young people marching to protect their lives and the lives of future generations. Congress must hear their cries and do its part to get weapons of war off our streets.”

One of the craziest things I’ve heard said about this movement is that these students — who decided to use their grief for the common good — are being used by the anti-gun crowd on the Left, that these kids are being radicalized. In one sense that might be true; watching your schoolmates being murdered might radicalize anyone. Or being part of a community that lives with daily gun violence might radicalize a student, especially those who have lost loved ones to the senseless slaughter.

How the marchers resented being labeled tools of adults, manipulated and exploited for their grief. The students organized these marches, with adult help for sure, their parents and others — like the parents of children killed in Newtown, CT — but these young people, who have grown up with social media — the new mainstream media — knew how to spread the word and get millions of others involved. Their FAQ section says, “This movement is for kids and by kids. March For Our Lives organizers are the kids themselves. They have brought in support to help ensure it is a success.”

Sir Paul McCartney told reporters in New York he lost one of his best friends (John Lennon) to gun violence

This mass movement may have started with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, but thousands of other teens across the nation took it upon themselves to organize in their cities and towns across the nation and around the world. And let’s remember many of these young people are over the age of 18 and therefore can get the permits needed. They probably did it online too, unlike us older adults who might have spent time going to a local special events office to get the necessary permits. Sometimes being “old school” is a result of being technologically challenged.

Interesting note: these young people have lived all their lives with the specter of school shootings. They were born after Columbine, even after 9/11. They have grown up with the fear of being murdered in their classrooms and now they would like to put an end to that for future generations of students.

Maybe they can succeed where their parents have failed. What all of the organizers know is, the march wasn’t the end of this movement, it was just the beginning. There is still a lot to do and they promise to get out the youth vote in the November mid-term elections. And then in the 2020 elections when the majority of them will be eligible to vote. An impromptu slogan: Register, Educate and Vote — REV.

It won’t be a surprise if some of these young people end up in local, state and federal government at some point. This movement is just getting off the ground.