While Trump Rallies the NRA, True Leaders Hold Prom in Parkland

Posted on May 3, 2018

Photo Credit: Getty Images

By Ryan Schuette

Fresh off their success with the March for Our Lives, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will hold a prom this weekend unlike any other, an “over the top” prom of proms. There will be dancing and romance—and mourning. Students will honor the 17 classmates who lost their lives in the Feb. 14 shooting with a memorial filled with pictures, alongside couches away from the music for those who want to sit, reflect and remember their loss.

More than a thousand miles away, in Dallas, the National Rifle Association will also gather this weekend, only for their annual convention. As he’s done in the past, NRA President Wayne LaPierre will tout the kinds of failed gun policies that have enabled assailants like the Parkland shooter to legally access assault-style weapons capable of mass slaughter in the first place. Fecklessly, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will both take time out of their schedules to speak at the convention. It’s a breathtaking display of insensitivity—not uncommon for this White House, admittedly—for the nation’s most senior leaders to embrace the same group these students and the #NeverAgain movement specifically called out for its role in fueling America’s gun violence epidemic.

The same organization responsible for mocking shooting survivors like David Hogg as “childish.” The same organization responsible for trotting out spokespeople like Dana Loesch to smear students behind the historic April 20 national school walkout with bizarre claims about links to anti-Semitism. On the weekend of their prom, no less—one organized specifically to remember the victims lost this year and show resilience in the face of unspeakable tragedy.

It’s a national disgrace.

Trump’s decision to headline an NRA convention this year marks another low point for moral credibility, both in his presidency and the history of the office itself. Oh yes, his high-profile appearance with Pence will generate the applause and wild approval that Trump craves from an audience of hardcore gun enthusiasts.

Thankfully, that audience is shrinking—along with the NRA’s once-formidable and pernicious influence in our nation’s politics. In February this year, the Quinnipiac University National Poll recorded the highest level of support among Americans for stricter gun laws, the largest in its history. The same poll found that 51 percent of Americans believe the NRA’s policies are bad for the nation, with those in support dropping to 38 percent, a decline by five percentage points over just five months.

The reason why? As the poll’s assistant director observed in the news release, “If you think Americans are largely unmoved by the mass shootings, you should think again.” On issues like universal background checks, waiting periods and an assault-weapons ban, a majority of respondents parted ways with the NRA’s agenda.

Talk about a sea change. Six years ago, Gallup found that 54 percent of Americans shared a favorable view of the organization. Many regarded the NRA as one of the most powerful lobbies in the nation, and rightfully feared it. The NRA Political Victory Fund regularly dumps tens of millions of dollars into elections, intimidating lawmakers—especially conservatives and red-state Democrats—with threats to fund their opponents in the primaries if any defy the group with gun-control legislation. Not even the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was enough to prompt anything more than a tepid response from Congress, thanks to the NRA’s strong-arm tactics.

The brave students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas played no small part in turning the tide. Never Again MSD spearheaded the March for Our Lives, which ultimately spanned more than 800 sibling marches around the country and world. When the NRA—and this president—backed a dangerous and ludicrous proposal to arm teachers in our schools, their courage inspired a boycott that led dozens of major companies to ditch their business relationships with the organization and cancel discount programs for members. Lawmakers haven’t been immune to mounting pressure for gun law reform, either, with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) memorably enduring withering boos and outrage at a town hall when 17-year-old junior Cameron Kasky pressed him on whether he planned to continue accepting NRA campaign donations.

Our nation’s students have done their part to unmask the NRA for its role in flooding our streets with easy-to-access military-grade weapons. We should all be enormously proud. Now it’s time for us to follow their lead on gun control.

As a country, we need to help them pull back the curtain on the NRA and advocate for commonsense laws that keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, require purchase permits, strengthen background checks and prevent more firearm-related suicides from happening. Crucially, we need a comprehensive national ban on assault-style rifles like the AR-15, the weapon of choice for perpetrators of our worst mass shootings, including those at a Las Vegas concert, San Bernardino community center, Sandy Hook and Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

As a result of this historic shift in public opinion, we’re seeing real progress at both the federal and state levels. At the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., lawmakers proudly wore badges with the NRA’s “F” grade, notorious for keeping legislators in line for years. Although Congress hasn’t yet authorized funding for gun research, federal lawmakers took a step in the right direction when they passed an omnibus bill that included language removing the gag on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that kept it from conducting gun violence research. This week the Houses of Representatives in Connecticut and Delaware passed bans on bump stocks, with the lower chamber in Illinois close behind.

Even Trump himself backed a bump stock ban. Now he’s slated to speak at the NRA convention.

Let him. Let the walking, talking disaster that is this president make his empty promises to an anxious, toxic, and unhinged gun lobby that continues to see its stranglehold on our country slip a little further every day.

The rest of us can turn our attention this weekend to prom night at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. That’s where the real leaders will be.




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