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The Children's Crusade


I was exhilarated last week when a new generation stepped forward to lead the crusade against gun violence. Impassioned, articulate and reasoned, the Parkland, Fla., students sounded the call and millions of people from around the world responded. It was particularly pleasing that they responded to the violence that had disrupted their world by urging an orderly and lawful reaction, turning to the very basis of our democratic society—the vote—to overturn the status quo.

As exciting as the massive demonstration of support for change was, it was disheartening to watch the reaction of some legislators, broadcasters and entertainment figures—supposed adults who resorted to name-calling and denigration of young people already traumatized by a terrifying experience.

It is hard to imagine why Emma Gonzalez’ hair style and sexual orientation is relevant to the issue of gun control or why Leslie Gibson, a former Republican candidate for the state House in Maine, felt he had the right to label her a “skinhead lesbian.”

And why was David Hogg ridiculed by Fox News host Laura Ingraham for “whining” when he said he was “profoundly disappointed” at not having been accepted to four California colleges? In a perfect world, Hogg, who has a 4.2 average, should have nothing more important on his mind in his senior year than choosing the college that will best prepare him for his future. He should not have to worry about literally changing the society that will define that future.

And what could former senator Rick Santorum have been thinking when he said on State of the Union that the young people should not be “looking to someone else to solve their problem,” and that they should “do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations that when there is a violent shooter that you can actually respond to that.” Really? They should not turn to our Congress—the body empowered to make laws that could reduce the lethality of our society—and should instead prepare themselves to offer first aid if they are lucky enough survive another shooting?

Something is wrong here and it is clear that the students are in for an uphill battle as they try to remove legislators who accept National Rifle Association money and then leave children in the crosshairs.

The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan think tank that tracks money in politics, found that in 2016 more than half of the members of the House of Representatives—232 of the 435—received money from gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America. That money went disproportionately to Republicans—$5,900,000 as compared to the $106,000 accepted by the nine Democrats who received campaign contributions from these groups.

Santorum is noted for his bone-headed gaffs but he has also received substantial benefits for his consistent support of gun rights (he even hunts in a cap with NRA emblazoned on it and gave his daughter an NRA membership for her third birthday). In his most recent election bid, he received a direct contribution of $115,942 from the NRA as well as benefitting from campaign ads financed by the NRA and the NRA-ILA.

The division on gun rights has become a clearly defined party issue as the data on donations indicates. Also illustrating the sharp party divide on gun control are the ratings issued by the NRA, defining which politicians are supporters of NRA doctrine. In the 2010 midterm elections, the NRA endorsed candidates in approximately two-thirds of congressional races and out of those endorsed 80 percent won their seats.

In February, it was reported that of the 52 senators receiving an A- rating or higher, only four were Democrats. These men and women repeatedly send their “thoughts and prayers” to the victims of gun violence but nothing else. They are unlikely to relinquish the support they receive to ensure their continued power to help the powerless. Even the slaughter of the innocents in Sandy Hook could not move them.

It is thought that Democrats will win more seats in the coming mid-term election. There will never be—nor should there be—a single-issue campaign but the escalating violence and chaos in our country needs a vigorous response. We must protect ordinary people from the violence of unbalanced persons with access to guns—and CPR training is not going to do it.