Marching Madness

In case you weren’t around for the radical tomfoolery in the 1960s, you’re now seeing the sequel. This time, however, with the ubiquity of social media, the latest incarnation has spread roughly at the speed of light. Using the horrific shooting deaths of 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida as a rallying cry, young people gathered in cities all over the country Saturday for the “March for Our Lives.” Channeling Saul Alinsky, the protesters picked their target, froze it, personalized it, and polarized it, and the identified villain is the National Rifle Association.

The event, laughably billed as “grassroots” by a fawning and frothing media, was anything but. Mega-rich donors, including billionaires Eli Broad and Michael Bloomberg, bankrolled the march. The glamorati were out in force, with stars like Sir Paul McCartney, George Clooney, and Lin-Manuel Miranda lending support. And, of course, the teachers unions were an important element, with national leaders such as Lily Eskelsen-Garcia and Randi Weingarten acting as cheerleaders, bloviating about the accessibility to “military-style, rapid-fire assault weapons.”

Hogg Wild
Most disturbing about the protesters’ rhetoric is that it comes from sheer ignorance. For example, they constantly pepper their diatribes with the term “assault weapon.” Can any of them define what that means? Probably not—because it depends on who is using the term and what the speakers’ political agenda happens to be. And, realistically, how many of them could distinguish a BB gun from a .357 magnum?

Perhaps the most unhinged of all the strident young participants is David Hogg, a student at Douglas High. The day before the march, he went on a profanity-laced tirade that conjured up some of the more vile elements of Abbie Hoffman-Timothy Leary ‘60s-activism. He screeched about “our old ass parents not knowing how to use a f–king democracy.”

Then Hogg got down to the real enemies (as he sees it): the NRA and the politicians who accept money from the pro-Second Amendment group. “It just makes me think what sick f–kers out there want to continue to sell more guns, murder more children, and honestly just get reelected. What type of sh–ty person does that? They could have blood from children splattered all over their faces and they wouldn’t take action, because they all still see these dollar signs.”

The media’s crazy talk is little better. While the irresponsible New York Times maintains that this is the “mass shooting generation,” it’s not even close to earning that title. A recent study showed that there were four times as many children shot and killed in schools in the early 1990s as today. And should it matter to the NRA-haters, as school shootings have abated, gun ownership has risen dramatically. Between 1996 and 2013, there was a 50 percent uptick in the number of guns in the country—from 242 million to 357 million. (I don’t know that the increase in firearms is the reason for fewer school shootings, but the greater number of guns has certainly not caused an increase in them.)

To put things in perspective, there are now about 10 school shooting deaths a year, as opposed to 40 per year 25 years ago. At the same time, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports 815 students die annually during regular travel between school and home. Also, between 2008 and 2013, an average of 45 children per year died as a result of sports-related injuries.

Failure of Authority
A more sensible investigation of the shooting reveals where at least some of the responsibility really belongs: with sloppy law enforcement and a lax policy toward youthful offenders.

The FBI admittedly failed to investigate a warning that the shooter possessed a gun and planned to use it. A person who was close to the gunman called an FBI tip line on January 5, several weeks before the shooting, to report concerns about him. The caller provided information about the shooter’s gun ownership, his desire to kill people, and his disturbing social media posts, “as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.”

What’s more, local police had responded to the gunman’s home 39 times over a seven-year period for a variety of reasons, including “domestic disturbance” and “child/elderly abuse,” according to documents officials released after the shooting. Nothing ever came of any of those reports. It’s possible that Obama-era pressure to reduce school suspensions, expulsions, and arrests may have played a role in discouraging authorities to act. Had the clearly deranged young man been arrested for any of his misdeeds, he would not have been able to legally purchase a firearm.

But facts and data don’t much matter to the protesting students and their adult sponsors. And they are not done. Living up to the old Rahm Emanuel dictum, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste,” they will be out in force yet again on April 20, the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine massacre. The teachers unions and other left-wing groups will be using part of a school day to promote “A National Day of Action to Prevent Gun Violence in Schools.”  

While the horror of the Parkland school shooting is undeniable, efforts by adults to advance shamelessly a leftist political agenda is appalling. Americans mourn the senseless loss of life. Let’s also mourn the death of truth and common sense.

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About Larry Sand

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network—a nonpartisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.