Parkland Shooting: Something’s Different this Time Around, But Why?

Last week’s school shooting in Parkland, FL was the deadliest since Sandy Hook in 2012. In the six years between these tragedies, there have been 1,607 mass shootings, 200 of which were carried out in schools. And after each of these events, the reaction has been largely the same: public outrage, immediate politicization, contentious social media debates, and ultimately, legislative inaction. People seem to stop talking about the incidents within a few weeks, and Congress moves on from debating gun safety measures.

But as observed by Nate Silver from FiveThirtyEight, who ties an unusually high amount of “gun control” google searches to the passionate activism of Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, people are still talking about Parkland. So what makes this one different? Why do Republicans seem more willing to compromise on gun control?

Perhaps President Trump feels less threatened by the NRA than other Republican politicians have in the past because he knows he can self-fund his re-election campaign. He doesn’t need the massive contributions that other GOP lawmakers do, and he also isn’t a typical establishment Republican. Trump doesn’t have the same dogmatic approach to this issue from a personal or ideological standpoint, which is evidenced by his multi-faceted proposal to address gun violence. This includes raising the minimum gun ownership age to 21, banning all mechanisms that “turn legal weapons into machine guns,” expanding background checks to ensure that the mentally ill cannot get their hands on guns. . .and encouraging public school teachers to keep guns in the classroom. While the ability of these measures to actually prevent mass shootings is up for debate (only 22% of all mass shootings are perpetrated by the mentally deranged, and more guns are always tied to more gun violence), it’s encouraging that politicians from both sides of the aisle are speaking up.

It’s also possible that the more compromising tone from GOP lawmakers is a result of mounting pressure to retain Congressional majorities in the 2018 midterm elections. Historically, the opposition party picks up at least two dozen seats in the House when the President’s approval rating is below fifty percent. Considering how poorly Republicans are currently polling, how angered people are about mass shootings, and how both gun-owning and non-gun-owning Americans feel about gun control, it seems that supporting some gun safety laws has become politically necessary.

It’s important to remember, though, that none of this would matter if it weren’t for the unbelievably passionate response of both the Parkland students and the American people. Rallies, protests, speeches, op-eds, and many other forms of resistance have made it nearly impossible for politicians to ignore the public health crisis we have with gun violence. Simply moving on is no longer an option, and for that we can thank people like Emma Gonzalez, the Stoneman Douglas student who inspired the nation with her deeply emotional and powerful speech.

Moving forward, we can’t let gun control fall out of the national dialogue, and we have to continue to press for gun safety legislation until we can send our kids to school without having to worry about them getting shot. If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out this video of a father of one of the Parkland victims challenging Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) at a CNN town hall on his “pathetically weak” response to the tragedy. This is yet another beautiful example of individual activism demanding a better response from the powers that be—and getting it.

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