Saturday, July 21, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Douglas High students, expect the expected in protesting gun violence in Tallahassee

It is noteworthy that the 100 or so students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who will arrive in Tallahassee Wednesday to plead with the Florida Legislature to introduce some sanity into our gun laws are now just a bit older than the 20 first-graders who were butchered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 by another deranged gunman wielding an assault rifle.

The Douglas kids have become stand-ins for the stilled voices of the Newtown children. Wednesday’s Tallahassee visit by the survivors of last week’s bloodbath in Parkland will be forceful, emotional and heart-wrenching. And it will all be for naught.

These citizens of Florida who are traveling to the state’s faraway capital are exercising their constitutional rights to petition their government for redress of grievances. You know, the kind of stuff they read about in their history classes before their school was turned into a killing field by a "law-abiding" citizen.

It is understandable the Douglas contingent labors under the false belief that if only they can speak with their elected officials and perhaps Florida Gov. Rick Scott, they will be able to reason with them to do something about the scourge of gun violence. That’s so, touching. And naive, too.

No doubt the pols they will speak to will offer up earnest comfort, warm hugs and bobble-head nods of understanding. As well, Scott will once more call for increased school security and better mental health programs. And then he will do nothing.

Oh, rest assured Scott will decry the fact that the FBI had failed to act on a tip that the Parkland killer was unhinged weeks before he went on his shooting rampage. But what Scott won’t own up to is that he has spent seven years in the governor’s mansion as a willing toady for the National Rifle Association.

And indeed, the Florida Legislature happily has fallen into line behind the NRA consistently blocking any efforts to curb the sale of assault weapons, or stiffening background checks.

Indeed, if the Douglas High School students really want some face time with the gun issue’s power center, they should seek an audience with the NRA’s top lobbyist, Marion Hammer.

For no one in Tallahassee dares to touch the gun problem in Florida for fear of being on the receiving end of Hammer’s arched eyebrow.

Still it would be interesting to see Hammer trying to explain to the Douglas students why it is a good idea to permit an 18-year-old to buy an AR-15 assault rifle but not a handgun, or to justify Florida’s many other irrational gun laws.

For when it comes to guns, the Florida Legislature, a wholly owned subsidiary of the NRA, is essentially irrelevant.

In 2016, Scott and the Legislature had an opportunity to make Florida safer in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shootings, which claimed 49 lives at the hands of another "law-abiding" citizen. But Marion Hammer would not have been amused. So they did … nothing.

After the Las Vegas shooting, which set a record for 58 murders by a "law-abiding" citizen, Florida could have moved to ban the purchase of "bump stocks," which can convert a gun into an automatic weapon. Again, nothing.

The students shouldn’t bother trying to meet with Florida Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, a political trollop, who has proudly described himself as a "NRA sellout."

They ought not to expect much from the state’s Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who has been paid off with at least $3.3 million in NRA campaign spending. Think of him as the Stormy Daniels of Smith & Wesson.

One fears the students will come away from Tallahassee soured on the political process. After all, they are about to be fed some Tallahassee home cooking.

But the trip will not be a total waste of time.

It is a good thing to have been exposed to the enormity of the challenges they face in pursuing change. It is a good thing to witness firsthand the mealy-mouthed, gutless wimps in the Legislature and the governor’s office who worry more about appeasing a single special interest rather than honoring the memories of 17 murdered students and teachers caught in the crosshairs of a "law-abiding" citizen.

And they should be proud this unselfish act on behalf of their dead loved ones is a more profound gesture of true citizenship that the Legislature can only dream of emulating.

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