We are left with many questions following the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida that took seventeen lives.
We’re left wondering how a mentally disturbed teenage shooter, well-known to local authorities, could have obtained firearms. We’re frustrated that the FBI didn’t follow-up on serious leads. We’re deeply disturbed that officers from the Broward County Police Department failed to act in the midst of a rampage. We’re flabbergasted that Sheriff Scott Israel dismisses questions about his leadership, or lack thereof.
This is how we as outside observers feel about the events of February 14, 2018. But those who actually lived through it carry a pain and anger that we can’t comprehend.
In the wake of unimaginable tragedy, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have been thrust into the media spotlight. They are young and passionate. They are grieving the loss of fellow classmates and even a portion of their innocence.
They are also the current face of the gun control movement. Unfortunately, they have been mocked and ridiculed by too many conservatives.
The gun control debate in the United States is one of the more divisive public conversations we attempt to have. It is emotionally charged because it is considered a matter of life and death. Those who are interested in more regulation are assumed to be against long-established rights and personal protection. Those who proudly proclaim and protect the Second Amendment are routinely considered callous, unconcerned with the death of gun violence victims. Neither is accurate. A political opponent may hold a different perspective, but that does not mean they are interested in stripping away freedoms or cheering someone’s violent and untimely demise.
The students we see interviewed by major media outlets and even daytime talk shows are just kids. 16 and 17-year-old high schoolers who, up until nearly two weeks ago, were unknown to us and living regular lives out of the spotlight. Now, they have massive social media followings and are praised by celebrities for their bravery and dedication to the cause.
Yes, they are in the public eye. Often, they speak directly against the right to bear arms. They point to the National Rifle Association as the source of all firearm evil in the U.S. At the CNN Townhall, one told Senator Marco Rubio “…it was hard to look at him ‘without looking down the barrel of an AR-15.'” Another berated NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch for not caring about even her own children.
These are unbelievably ignorant statements, born out of emotion and extreme misunderstanding. They are also spoken by children who have not been placed on stage of their own accord. Their immaturity is on display when they attempt serious policy discussions.
Politically-motivated interest groups are well aware that a young, fresh face will most likely invigorate the masses who have grown weary of circular arguing. Who better to talk about saving kids than peers who were spared death only because they hid from a monster? They are the survivors, and their voices are powerful.
Unfortunately, they have been given a mantle that should never have been handed to them. David Hogg, disgustingly labeled a “crisis actor” by some, has made wild statements excusing the actions of the officers who should have entered the school that day and instead, blaming Florida Governor Rick Scott. Hogg even stated that he won’t return to his own high school until gun control legislation is passed. These are not rational statements by any stretch of the imagination.
But instead of piling on these minors, why not ask why their parents have allowed them so much public attention during such a serious time? Is it smart to allow their children to become overnight celebrities? Who is allowing these kids – KIDS – to parade in the spotlight and spout talking points that aren’t grounded in reality? If anyone is to blame, it’s the adults around them, parents and others alike.
Soon enough, the country will cool on the Parkland shooting subject matter and turn toward something else. That may happen in the near future or it may when the next mass shooting takes place. When it does occur, these teenagers will be left with a brief history of activism that they might have enjoyed, but were never prepared for. Their youth does not grant them expertise. Their victimhood does not qualify them as spokespeople for the powerful anti-gun lobby.
When I see them on TV or read their statements online, I see only pawns, powerfully used by those who know better.
Despite all their exposure, they are just children. Let them be.