Muftic: Cross the kids from Parkland, Fla., at your own risk |

Muftic: Cross the kids from Parkland, Fla., at your own risk

Felicia Muftic
Courtesy Photo |

The ability of students from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., to stand eye-to-eye, toe-to-toe with gun rights advocates on the national stage has been jaw dropping. How could that happen?

It hasw happened because they had the skills provided by their school and credibility untainted by campaign donations and ideology. They were the survivors; they had been on the receiving end of an AR-15. They channeled their grief and trauma into political action with such fervor and earnestness, their motivation was difficult to question, as much as Russian bots and right wing conspiracists tried.

The students have held their own on national television, appearing with professionals and adults on both sides of the second amendment rights debate. They have no fear in taking on the NRA and they do it with communications skills that only a fraction of adults with media training could muster. They have also done so with political sophistication and a grasp of the issues. Now those students have called for a nation wide protest march in Washington on March 24. Decades of protest marches, and especially the women’s marches in the past two years , provide their template.

How did those students get such media savvy? Their high school’s curriculum and extracurricular activities enabled them. Stoneman Douglas provides an active debate program, and by a stroke of fate the November topic of debate was “gun control.” Their trained student speakers were loaded with knowledge of the issues. In addition, this mega size suburban school has its own television station and the first student on camera was David Hogg, a debater, the television station manager, and news presenter. Let us not discount either that this new generation of students is accustomed to speaking into cell phones, taking selfies, and texting in sound bites and they can run circles around older generations in the use of social media. Microphones and cameras do not spook them and they are armed with the skills to communicate with the masses.

Have those students had success so far? Florida was one of the most wide open, permissive states in the union for gun rights. Local governments were even forbidden to establish their own regulations. Before the students arrived in buses to lobby the state lawmakers closed their ears to what the knew would be the students’ goal, to ban assault type weapon sales. The students took to national TV and threatened to take down those legislators in the next election. While sales of assault weapons were not banned, the Florida legislature saw they needed to do something. They passed legislation that raised the minimum age to purchase any firearm from 18 to 21, imposed a three-day waiting period on all gun purchases, banned bump stocks, and gave law enforcement greater power to commit people who they thought would be a threat. The law also funded school police officers and mental health counselors, improved tip lines, and, in a compromise bow to the NRA, allowed local school districts and sheriffs to have the option to arm certain school personnel. Not included, however, was closing the “lie and try” loophole that which still makes it easier for felons to buy guns. The governor, though reluctant to arm teachers or school personnel, signed the legislation Friday. The students and their parents called the legislation “a good first step,” inferring they were not done yet.

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