Is this school shooting different? Teens take over!

Emma Gonzalez is mad, informed, engaged, and powerful. If you haven’t seen this yet, it’s worth 10 minutes of your time.

Emma survived the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a 19 year old man, armed with a semi-automatic weapon, killed (at least) 17 people. She’s announced her determination to make Parkland the last school shooting, by forcefully demanding government action.

It’s hard to remember that the tragically high numbers of deaths from gun violence in the United States are eclipsed by many more survivors, more poised for political action than ever before. Emma is great, sharp, smart, and committed. And she’s not unusual or alone:

Fifteen year old Christine Yared cracked The New York Times op-ed page with a powerful description of living through the shooting:

My friends, classmates and teachers are dead. I see the media portraying them as good children who were smart and kind, but they were much more than that.

My friend Gina is dead. I had just talked to her that morning in art class. We laughed together, we sang together, we smiled together. We will never do that again. How could someone be this despicable? When I think about it, I start bawling.

We can’t let innocent people’s deaths be in vain. We need to work together beyond political parties to make sure this never happens again. We need tougher gun laws.

Student survivors filled every social media channel, posting about their pain and their commitment, and demanding that adults do better. Several students also cracked the television news shows.

Cameron Kasky was one of a group that made the rounds of the Sunday shows, and announced the student strategy. On ABC News he announced a new focus tied to a familiar tactic:

People are saying that it’s not time to talk about gun control. And we can respect that. Here’s a time. March 24th in every single city. We are going to be marching together as students begging for our lives.

This isn’t about the GOP. This isn’t about the Democrats. This is about the adults. We feel neglected and at this point, you’re either with us or against us.

Any politician on either side who is taking money from the NRA is responsible for events like this, At the end of the day, the NRA is fostering and promoting this gun culture.

These young people are not going to be satisfied with thoughts and prayers, or cooled out by politicians expressing their heartfelt concerns and sympathies. They know that the repetition of mass shootings isn’t a normal feature of life in advanced democracies. They know that gun control helps.

Their plan is to mobilize teens–and their supporters–across the country, and rather than focus on a particular set of reforms, focus on the toxic role of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the political debate. Emma proclaims that she will ask President Trump how much he received from the NRA, but won’t depend on the accuracy of his answer; she already knows: $30 million. Cameron outlines the plan to stigmatize any politician who takes money from the group–and it’s almost every national Republican.

Might this time be different than all the other times after all the other horrific shootings?

We’ve been through it before, in Tucson, Arizona, where Rep. Gabby Giffords was among those shot by a crazed gunman, and in Newtown, Connecticut, where a crazed gunman targeted an elementary school.

The NRA and its supporters stay quiet while outraged supporters of gun control stage events and issue demands, and then everything stalls in Congress, where NRA-supported politicians have been able to stop anything from happening. States often pass laws around the margins, but roughly half the time, those laws make it easier to get guns. And then other issues crowd out guns for most people.

This time?

The student initiative is building on not only a foundation of fatigue and horror, but also political organizing that’s taken off since Newtown, and particularly in the last year. The students have linked not only with gun control groups like Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, but also with large and powerful Resistance groups like the Women’s March, which is planning its own student walk-out day to protest gun violence.

The focus on the NRA also provides local activists a blueprint for their own organizing. Groups like Indivisible, already prepared for engaging in the 2018 elections, have been pressuring their elected officials to meet with their districts and explain their positions. Adding the question of NRA support to the obstacles politicians must navigate is reasonably clear.

It’s unlikely to be decisive in some districts, but in many others, where modest gun control measures (bans on assault weapons; full background checks; ending the gun show loophole) are broadly popular, embattled incumbents will have to handle voters passionate about changing unpopular policies and politicians who support them.

This time, the Republican Party is led by a president who is particularly inept at expressing empathy or concern. Donald Trump’s jaunty Florida photo op (thumbs up!) surely made students madder, and the president would be crazy to meet with these kids, who are better informed and more articulate than he is.

A few Republican politicians will desert him, calling for modest measures and distancing themselves from the NRA to try to protect themselves–and maybe their students as well.

In this Congressional term, I suspect the national legislative impact of the shooting and the student activism will be to stall a bill that would allow anyone allowed to carry a concealed weapon in any state to carry a concealed weapon in every state, supported by the NRA and 213 House cosponsors.

Chants of 'no more guns' break out at Florida school shooting vigilSafe schools and sensible gun regulation will take a different Congress, and more activist effort over years.

The kids from Parkland are tough and smart; the gun debate will test their endurance.


Over the long haul, I’d bet on the survivors.

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Greensboro lunch counter sit in anniversary, 2018

It’s the anniversary of the start of the sit-in campaign in Greensboro, North Carolina. I’m always moved and encouraged by the audacity of those young men. 


There was once a store called Woolworths.  It sold dry goods, mostly cheap stuff, including paper and pencils.  Many Woolworths also housed a cheap restaurant where you could get coffee and a grilled cheese sandwich, also cheap.  Fifty-three years ago today, a
Woolworth sit-inWoolworths in Greensboro, North Carolina, was the site of a new phase in the civil rights movement, the beginning of the sit-in campaign.

On Monday morning, February 1, 1960, Ezell Blair, Jr., Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, and David Richmond, wearing their best clothes, went shopping at the Woolworths, bought some school supplies, then sat down at the lunch counter and tried to order coffee.  The four young men, freshmen at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College,  knew the store wouldn’t serve food to black people, so they waited.  Woolworths shut the lunch counter down.

The next day, black and white students filled the lunch counter at Woolworths, and by the end of the week, every lunch counter in downtown Greensboro was filled with students protesting segregation–and organizing a boycott of the downtown businesses that practiced segregation.  Over the next weeks, sit-ins spread across the segregated South, led by student activists.

The four freshmen, no not the singing group, had all been active in the NAACP’s youth council, but none of them saw the large organization as a good foundation for a more activist and confrontational phase in the civil rights struggle. Pushed by the heroic Ella Baker, the NAACP launched an initiative to create a new student-based civil rights organization, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which staged dramatic education and direct action campaigns across the South for most of the rest of the decade.

Today is a great day to commemorate the sit-in movement, but anniversaries can be slippery.  When I tell the story to my classes, I usually start with the long Sunday night conversation when the brave young men talked themselves into action.  You could start the story much earlier, with the sit-ins organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) organized decades earlier, or with the sit-down strikes organized by the Industrial Workers of the World at the start of the 20th century, even before the founding of the NAACP.  You could also start the story with the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Rosa Parks, or the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.  The Greensboro students knew all those stories.

Anniversaries help us remember important events and twists in history, but they invariably simplify longer and more complicated stories.  The drama of the Greensboro sit-in makes for a good entry into thinking about the civil rights movement, and into thinking about how regular people sometimes make history.  The names of Baker, Blair, McCain, McNeil, and Richmond are not particularly well-known today, not like those of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, John Lewis (who would lead SNCC), or Thurgood Marshall.  The names of the thousands of young people crusading against segregation with them are even lesser known.  But movements are only possible and potentially effective with people willing to take risks without counting on seeing their names in the history books.

Woolworth lunch counter


The lunch counter itself, or at least a portion of it, has been reassembled at the American Museum of National History (Smithsonian) in Washington, DC.  There are only four seats on display.  When we think about the civil rights movement, however, we need to extend the counter a long way.

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Did the women’s march matter? Does it still?

(originally posted at KCET-Link.  I wrote this before the anniversary march; it offers a take on what it takes for protest to promote social change. It’s worthwhile to look at the broader News and Analysis section on the site.)

Anti-Trump protesters took to the streets the day after their target took the oath of office, creating the largest demonstration in American history. This Women’s March wasn’t limited to Washington, DC, where more than 700,000 people packed into the National Mall, nearly three times the number who showed up for the iconic March on Washington in 1963. In 2017, the demonstration was so crowded that there really wasn’t enough space for anyone to actually march. And, unlike the civil rights demonstration, the Women’s March wasn’t confined to the capital; hundreds of sister demonstrations marched across the United States and around the world, including more than 400,000 people in Los Angeles and between 18 and 22 protesters in Beaver Island, Michigan. More than 4 million people joined the Women’s March, with at least another 300,000 globally. (These figures come from an ambitious crowd sourcing effort led by political scientists Erica Chenoweth and Jeremy Pressman.)

The showing was remarkable, and participants could return home and fold their pink pussy hats, knowing that they were not alone in their opposition to Trump, the policies he promised, nor in their willingness to do something about it. That sense of satisfaction might have been short-lived.

Women's March

The next day, Donald Trump was still president. Not visibly embarrassed or chastened, Trump’s administration set about delivering on at least some of the policies marchers found offensive or dangerous, and in a manner that reinforced their misgivings. A year later, much of this is still the same: the demonstrators have little reason to reconsider their opposition as the Trump administration routinely lives up to its opponents’ harshest caricatures of it.

This doesn’t mean that the Women’s March was a failure or a wasted effort, only that the process of social change is more time-consuming, complicated, and difficult than people might think.

We edit our histories to emphasize dramatic events and consequences, but to understand the process of change we need to recall at least some of what comes in between. King George didn’t cede the colonies in direct response to the Boston Tea Party, but that protest animated and inspired the Independence movement. Rosa Parks spent more than a decade in the civil rights movement before refusing to move to the back of a bus, and it took more than a year of a bus boycott plus a court case before Montgomery bus drivers stopped enforcing racial segregation. And the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King delivered the “I have a dream speech,” was first proposed 22 years earlier. Focusing on the most dramatic events is like reading only the punctuation marks in far longer and more complicated stories.

The Women’s March is one of those critical and dramatic events, and its influence continued over the past year, and will extend beyond its anniversary commemoration. The marchers went home, but they didn’t stay there. Just one week later, alerted through social media, Women’s Marchers and others turned up at the major international airports to protest Trump’s travel ban, as lawyers offered free services to passengers stuck in the ban’s awkward debut. Opponents challenged the ban not only at the airports but also in the courts, a challenge that continues.

The airport protests were followed by marches and demonstrations for immigrants, science, the environment, health care, fair taxation, LGBT rights, and for Truth (about the Trump campaign’s Russia connections). This list is, of course, partial and covers only large national events. Activists also staged thousands of protests across the country, addressing many issues and employing a wide range of tactics. Activists staged silent vigils, rallies, town hall meetings, and civil disobedience in legislators’ offices, and preemptively threatened more—most recently, planned demonstrations should Trump fire Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. Each protest recruited some new activists, most of whom did not return home and give up on politics.

And it’s not just protest. Demonstrating is generally an addition rather than an alternative to more conventional politics. A single protest is usually one part of a larger political campaign, and just a piece of an activist’s life. Demonstrators are more likely to follow politics, talk with neighbors, vote, and more. Supporters who watch the protest online or read about it the next day, are also likely to be inspired and engaged to do something else. In the wake of the Women’s March, its key sponsors, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, received record donations. Alerted by the protests, many Americans spent more time on the news, tracking both provocative policies and activist efforts. Indivisible was the most visible of the new groups pushing activists to conventional politics, supporting calls to legislators’ offices and town hall meetings.

The Women’s March was only the largest early event in an emerging Trump Resistance movement that has already filtered into mainstream politics. The demonstrations stiffen the spines of allies in government, and weaken the resolve of some opponents. Civil servants and political appointees see support for holding onto their missions and the law when challenged by the administration. Supportive elected officials see support for staking out strong positions. Trump supporters in office reconsider their own positions. Witness, for example, the recent rash of Congressional retirements, as politicians don’t want to face the forces the Resistance movement has stirred. The protests force politicians to respond to questions on politics and policy, explaining, often poorly, the reasons behind unpopular policies. They help set the agenda for both politicians and media.

Women's March: Crowd

The Women’s March also inspired individuals to work in campaigns to replace the politicians they could not convince, and not just the president. At least a half-dozen surprisingly successful first-time candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates cited the Women’s March as inspiration. The new connections and organizations have built a growing infrastructure that will animate the electoral campaigns of the fall. This year’s Women’s March has explicitly set engaging the November elections as a major goal for the movement. Meanwhile, those who marched — or cheered the marchers — will also knock on doors, make phone calls, write letters, and vote. Their influence will be felt, but it takes time and a great deal of work.

Does protest matter? Not by itself, but in combination with a broad range of other purposeful actions. And victories are never all that activists demand; sometimes, stopping an opponent from doing something awful is a start at something bigger. Sometimes, an early loss leads to greater mobilization and longer term influence.  Remember, the Tea Party’s prime objective in 2009 was to prevent Obama’s passage of the Affordable Care Act. That movement failed—in the short run — but its effects are still roiling American politics.

If the Women’s March were only one day in January, it would be unlikely to change much at all. But when it inspires and connects those who march, invigorating citizen action in the in-between times, it can help change the world. The less visible, less dramatic events in-between, including protest, politics, and conversation, aren’t always newsworthy, but they make democracy work. The arc of the moral universe only bends toward justice when engaged citizens pull it.

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Women’s March, 2018

The Women’s  Marches missed the top slot in mainstream media this year, crowded out by the Federal government shut down. But the marches may turn out to have longer-lasting effects.

I was glad to attend the Orange County Women’s March in Santa Ana, California,Women’s Marcher’s, including men, women and children, hit the streets of Santa Ana during the second annual event on Saturday, Jan 20, 2018. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG) enjoying a marcher’s worm’s eye view of the action: creative signs, chants, fragments of speeches, songs, local political candidates and lots of talk, some of it about politics.

I was surprised that the  turnout was about the same as last year’s march: 20,000 people.

This is not the way big demonstrations usually work. Movement momentum is hard to sustain, people are busy, and the first women’s march had spun activists into all sorts of other campaigns. People are busy! And last year’s march was certainly the largest set of  New York subwaydemonstrations in American history.

I returned home to see my social media feeds filled with pictures of friends at sister marches around the country. The pussy hats–and many of the signs–were the same that I’d seen in Orange County, but most of my distant correspondents were wrapped in winter coats and scarves, sometimes with boots to manage the snow (not a pressing issue in Orange County, California).

Amazingly, the reported turnouts were higher than last year’s in many cities. An estimated 600,000 people showed up in Los Angeles (at left), about 100,000 more than last year. Chicago (left) turned out roughly 50,000 more marchers than last year’s 250,000, and Washington DC (below) turned out hundreds of thousands, even as predictions days earlier were for about 1/10 as many.

I don’t expect the totals to approach last year’s historic numbers, but this showing is exceptional. (For turnouts, watch Erica Chenoweth and Jeremy Pressman’s crowd-sourcing project here.)

Image: People gather during the Women's March around Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, on Jan. 20, 2018 in Washington.

So, what happened?

And, what happens next?

A few observations:

  1. Unlike his Democratic and Republican predecessors, Donald Trump did not try to reach out and represent the people who didn’t vote for him. (Neither Barrack Obama or George W. Bush were very successful at winning over opponents, but they both showed they were trying.)
  2. The Trump administration has been chaotic, provocative, and not very effective. The government shut-down is only the most recent example–and it hit the same day as the scheduled march.
  3. The Women’s March, and many allies/competitors, took organization seriously, and worked to build infrastructure, and recruit, train, and connect organizers.
  4. #MeToo has put the issues of sexual assault and harassment even higher on the political agenda than Trump’s campaign last year. Lawsuits and tweets and conversations percolating over months spilled into the streets today.
  5. Trump’s transparently racist comments surrounding immigration, in the context of the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), demonstrated the stronger emergence of a white nativist movement–with more than footholds in government.

This list is by no means exhaustive. I’ll be curious about what others might add. The overview, however, is clear: those unhappy about a Trump presidency last year had every reason to stay that way–and Trump helped. And organizers have been working over the past year to build a series of sustainable campaigns.

But a large set of annual demonstrations won’t be enough to make an impact. Organizers know this, and are trying to do more.After WOMEN'S MARCH ANNIVERSARY: POWER TO THE POLLS tickets

Last year’s march was about the disappointment of national elections; this year’s events frame the upcoming elections as an opportunity. Activists carrying an extremely broad range of concerns are focused on changing the government to address those policies. Trump isn’t on the ballot, but activists will work to lash him to every candidate with an R next to his name. Resistance organizers are encouraging supporters not only to vote, but also to run for office, with some visible success. At least a half-dozen of the newly elected Democratic delegates in the lower house of Virginia’s legislature cite the first women’s march as inspiration.

The crowds were out today, but the Resistance has been marching for the past year, with less than 10 months to go.

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Martin Luther King Day, 2018

Mark Ulriksen’s “In Creative Battle” / The New Yorker

Mark Ulriksen’s “In Creative Battle,” from the January 15, 2018, The New Yorker. King with Michael Bennett and Colin Kaepernick.

On the eve of the Martin Luther King Day holiday, the president of the United States announces, emphatically, that you can’t find anyone less racist than he is. If you’re suspicious of such proclamations, perhaps it’s just that you’ve learned to distrust people who laud their own honesty, their color-blindness, their respect for women, or concern for the poor. Like the salesman who claims the nickname, “Honest,” Donald Trump has never succeeded in fooling most people, just enough to sell the next condo or secure the next loan. Then some large number of elected officials and voters who knew better chose to look the other way, and Trump won the 2016 election.

The office of the presidency, however, starts with obligations to all Americans, and it doesn’t end there. Trump is hardly the first US president to harbor racist thoughts or sentiments, but he’s displayed less worry about revealing them to large audiences, often through words, and consistently through deeds.

One of the hard-won achievements of the civil rights movement was the establishment of King holiday. This means that Americans expect any president to pay respects to the man, and even more, to the movement. Tradition really is powerful, and activists are wise to attend to establishing new ones.

If Trump displayed less appreciation or enthusiasm for the King holiday than, say, pardoning Thanksgiving turkeys, that’s no mystery or surprise. Image result for Trump pardons turkey

Each holiday event is a moment, unlikely to capture much attention in the White House during the rest of the year.

For the rest of us, however, the King Day reminder is an alert. Martin Luther King, Jr., and many many others, put work behind their words on social justice, often facing great risks and paying serious penalties. Their heirs continue today.

(Below is a repost of a MLKing Day holiday note.)

Martin Luther King died young enough and dramatically enough to be turned into an American hero, but it was neither his youth nor his death that made him heroic.

In his rather brief public life, beginning in Montgomery at 26, and ending with his assassination at 39, King consistently displayed rhetorical brilliance (on the podium and the page), strategic acumen, and moral and physical courage.

The effort to honor Martin Luther King with a holiday commemorating his birthday started at the King Center, in Atlanta, in the year after his assassination.  States began to follow suit, and by 1983, more than half celebrated King’s life with a day.  In that year, Ronald Reagan signed a bill making Martin Luther King day a national holiday expressing ambivalence, acknowledging that it was costly, and that King may have been a Communist.

The King holiday was about Martin Luther King, to be sure, but it was meant to represent far more than the man.  King stands in for the civil rights movement and for African-American history more generally.  I often wonder if the eloquence of the 1963 “I have a dream” speech winds up obscuring not only a man with broader goals, but a much more contested–and ambitious–movement.

The man and the movement are ossified into an iconic image, like a statue, which locks King and the movement into the politics of 1963-1965.  We accept King’s dream, that little children will play together, and that people will be judged by “the content of their character” (a favorite phrase on the right).

The image, like a statue, is available for appropriation to advocates of all political stripes, and the establishment of the holiday itself represents an achievement of the civil rights movement, winning the holiday if not broader economic and social equality.

Before the transformation of the man into an icon, King transformed himself from a pastor into an activist, a peripatetic crusader for justice.

But the pastor didn’t disappear; rather this role grew into something larger, as King himself transformed himself from a minister into a an Old Testament prophet, one whose primary concern was always the people on the margins, the widows and orphans, the poor and hungry.  In standing with those on the margins, King courageously used–and risked–the advantages of his privilege, pedigree, and education.  He also knew that he risked his safety and his life.

In his writing, King used his education and his vocation to support his political goals.  In the critically important “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” he cited both the Constitution and the Bible in support of Federal intervention in local politics to support desegregation and human rights.  (We know that other activists now use the same sources to justify pushing the Federal government out of local politics.)

King explained that he was in jail in Birmingham, Alabama, because he had nonviolently defied local authorities in the service of higher laws, the Constitution and the Gospel.  This was not like making a provocative statement on one’s own [profitable] radio or television show.  There were real costs and severe risks.

King was never less than controversial during his life, under FBI surveillance during his political career, and vigorously criticized by opponents (for demanding too much and too strongly) and allies (for not demanding more, more vigorously).

When he was assassinated outside a Memphis motel in 1968, he was standing with sanitation workers on strike, straying from a simpler civil rights agenda.  He had also alienated some civil rights supporters by coming out, strongly, against the war in Vietnam.  And Black Power activists saw their own efforts as overtaking King’s politics and rhetoric.  By the time he was killed, Martin Luther King’s popular support had been waning for some time.

Posterity has rescued an image of Martin Luther King, at the expense of the man’s own broader political vision.

Ironically, in elevating an insurgent to a position in America’s pantheon of historic heroes, we risk editing out the insurgency.

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How activists should respond to the racist right: 3. ignore them (sheetcake)

The fish that always rises to the bait doesn’t live very long or very well.

(Another entry in the series I started a month ago; you can find part 2 and part 1.)

The racist right feeds on the (justified) outrage of its opponents. It doesn’t always make sense to give it to them. Turning away, sometimes, may be the best strategic response.

Let’s call it the sheet cake strategy, in deference to Tina Fey:

In the wake of the protests and violence in Charlottesville, UVA alumna Tina Fey used six minutes of prime time to urge all sane people to steer clear of the announced nationalist rallies coming up. (Most of them didn’t end up happening anyway).

In a pointed and extremely funny (“hysterical” can be misinterpreted) monologue, castigating the racist right and its inspirations in office, Tina Fey advocated staying home while indulging in sheet cake from an ethnic bakery:

In conclusion, I really want to say, to encourage all good, sane Americans to treat these rallies this weekend like the opening of a thoughtful movie with two female leads. Don’t show up. Let these morons scream into the empty air.

The point of the analogy is clear: Hollywood doesn’t make movies that don’t generate attention. Ignored, the racist right may just go away.

Now, let’s acknowledge that turning the other cheek, even in the process of mooning the opponents, is easier for those who enjoy racial or economic privilege.


Hate feeds on opposition. Thousands of vigorous opponents carrying signs and chanting derision supports the story of the world lined up against these alienated white men. But nothing?

Forty-fifty white supremacists (according to an organizer) briefly relit their Tiki torches, and met at the foot of a shrouded statue of Robert E. Lee. After some ritualized chanting, they dispersed, retreating–for the moment–to the margins of political life.

It’s like claiming victory for muttering unheard curses underneath your breath to a boss or professor. It’s got to be hard for at least some of those attending to believe they’re doing something significant.

And, I hope, the good citizens of Charlottesville, were able to sleep or read, play cards, debate health care or tax policy, or even strategies for advancing a more comprehensive approach for justice. We don’t have to let the fringes set our own agendas.

Provocateurs on the right have become adept at getting their opponents to devote Milo Yiannopoulos appears briefly in front of a crowd in Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)disproportionate and very costly attention to them.

With a few well-chosen pokes, Milo Yiannopoulos and a smattering of local allies provoked the University of California, Berkeley and (at least) hundreds of opponents to jump and twitch. Local and national media rushed to cover an announced “free speech week” that amounted to, really, little more than 15 minutes of fame. The University spent an estimated $800,000 to police an otherwise valueless event. (It’s hard for me, an employee of the University of California, not to think about that money spent on books or scholarships or courses instead.)

The trick is to identify the provocations and provocateurs that can be safely ignored.

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Politicize this tragedy


Flags at half-staff in Nevada

Gun control supporters need to respond to the awful Las Vegas shooting with the same speed and focus the police showed in response to the shooter. Before the FBI and police have finished conducting their investigations and cleaning up the debris on the strip, before any of the victims have been discharged from the hospital or buried, gun control groups must fill the airwaves and the Internet with concrete proposals to make America safe(r) again.

True American carnage, the shooting in Las Vegas makes the consequences of our easy access policy to firearms unusually clear. The vast majority of Americans don’t think about guns, much less silencers, most of the time, more concerned with economic inequality, carpool schedules, climate change, or the cost of cable tv. An engaged slice of America, including the gun industry, cares deeply, invests aggressively, and is extremely well-represented by the National Rifle Association. Most of the time, largely playing defense, this minority rules–ruthlessly and recklessly.

A chart shows America’s disproportionate levels of gun violence.


Opponents of sensible gun control will lament the presence of evil, sending thoughts and prayers into the ether, until this moment of clear vision passes. Unlike evil, guns can be regulated and the damage people inflict with them limited. (See chart above: everyone else does.) Enemies of gun control pray that public attention to the costs of our gun policy will pass when the next hurricane hits or the president again tweets about the national anthem.

The NRA has postponed airing its newest ad campaign. Donald Trump has called for prayer and unity, while the White House and Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have called for mourning, rather than action, suggesting that political debate at the moment is unseemly.

The waiting game is a good strategy for those who are winning. Fans of easy access to guns would prefer not to talk about their plans when lots of people are listening carefully.

But gun control proponents, massively outfunded and usually out-organized, must seize the moment before the smoke has all cleared.

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