On the morning of February 22 I was having breakfast in Dave’s 12th Street Food Mart and gas station here in Pendleton, which has a breakfast menu including great burritos. This while waiting for my pickup to be repaired at G & R Truck and Auto Repair.
Sitting in a booth I could watch the news on a big TV screen hanging from the wall. Soon I realized that Fox News (which never in my born days have I watched) was live covering the students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who were holding a kind of news conference. But it was so much more than that.
About 10 survivors of the killing ground came before the camera with a handheld microphone to make these absolutely thoughtful and insightful statements about the massacre of 17 students and faculty. Some had written out their comments, while others just said what needed to be said. After I listened to about five of them I began to tear up — something that older men often do.
These kids were so eloquent and powerful I will never, ever forget what they said. They spoke from the heart but also with much political savvy and knowledge about what had happened to them on February 14 and the ins and outs of gun control. And, I was so proud of them. From online articles:
Parkland student Alex Wind: “In Newtown the students were so young they couldn’t stand up, but trust me, we are going to be the change. It is absolutely insane that a 19-year-old cannot purchase alcohol but can walk in and buy an AR-15, a weapon of mass destruction.”
David Hogg, the apparent leader of the student group: “Would American patriots try to buy our elections and our children’s lives by lobbying for lax gun laws even after massacres? To Congress, you have the power to change this and if you don’t, then we will change you. We may be too young to vote, but soon we will be able to vote and we will vote you out.”
Then, during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” on February 25 he let loose on the NRA: “Honestly, it’s disgusting. The NRA acts like they don’t own these politicians, but they do. They’ve gotten gun legislation passed before in their favor, in favor of gun manufacturers. The NRA is an organization that’s completely broken.”
Florence Yared: “Instead of returning for our studies, instead of preparing for exams, and instead of grieving for our dead classmates and teachers, we are out here advocating for change. Some of you said it was too soon to talk about gun control ... If we wait until then your children might become a victim too.”
Dan Linden: “We’ve had enough of thoughts and prayers ... we are coming after every single one of you and demanding that you take action, demanding that you make a change.”
Delaney Tarr, she of the big black glasses, said on Vox: “We are lucky enough to come from a very affluent neighborhood. We go to an amazing school that’s been giving us so many opportunities to learn about government, to learn about policy, to learn about social issues. We have so many clubs and classes dedicated to this type of thing, so we know what we’re talking about. And we’ve always been ready to speak out about it, but this has hit so close to home that we have to speak out about this, right now. We are still, of course, grieving, and we do lash out at moments, but ultimately, we are not making this a partisan issue. We are making this a life-or-death issue.”
As a result of this hard-edged thinking, under the rubric of #neveragain, the survivors are organizing the March 24 March for Our Lives against what the NRA has done to America, its schools, and its children. According to a mission statement for March For Our Lives, students across the country will converge on Washington next month to say the nation can no longer wait to tackle issues of school safety and gun control reform.
As it happens, most Americans are on their side. A February 23 CBS poll found that 65 percent of Americans now say laws covering the sale of guns should be stricter — an eight-point increase from December. The rise has been primarily among Republicans and independents, with a large increase among Republicans from last December. Democrats remain in favor.
A Politico Morning Consult poll released on February 28 shows support for stricter gun laws among registered voters at 68 percent, compared to just 25 percent who oppose stricter gun laws.
I don’t know if a parallel march will happen here in Pendleton, (a Western gun-toting town) but if a march is organized I’ll be there.
Tom Hebert is a writer and public policy consultant living outside Pendleton.