Sunday, June 17, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Parkland students set example for advocacy

Music is healing. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Senior High School put that theory on display Sunday night in New York with their stirring performance at the Tony Awards — beautifully.

The students, all from the school’s drama department, brought the house down singing the powerful "Seasons of Love," from Rent, as survivors of the Feb. 14 massacre at their Parkland school, where 17 died.

They touched millions of people with their moving message. This summer, many of their classmates also have a moving message: Register to vote —then vote!

On Thursday, a large group of Stoneman Douglas graduates will set out on a nationwide bus tour to bring about change in America. Half a century ago, it was students protesting the Vietnam War. Today, the students’ mission is to end a domestic war, one we’re waging on ourselves through gun violence.

The day after they received their diplomas — four seniors killed in the mass shooting received them posthumously — the grads announced the March for Our Lives tour. They will raise gun-control awareness and push for reform, likely going mano a mano with the NRA publicity machine. They will also be registering teens in time to vote in the midterm elections this November. They’ve got a big hurdle to clear. Millennials, who include 18- and 19-year-olds, have the lowest voter turnout of any age group. Registering them will be easy, moving them to the voting booth, perhaps, not so much.

The bus tour is an offshoot of the March for Our Lives demonstration in Washington, D.C., and Tallahassee in March. There will be two tours: One will make 75 stops in 20 states, with a separate statewide tour that will visit all 27 congressional districts in Florida. It’s an ambitious project. It all begins Thursday with a peace march in Chicago, led by students from St. Sabina Academy.

The tours are being funded by donations made by people from around the country. A dollar amount was not disclosed. Donations are accepted through the March for Our Lives website. It’s imperative that students and their advisers are meticulous and transparent with their finances. They should not let even a whiff of carelessness compromise the integrity of their righteous mission.

Their movement already has made an impact. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a $400 million bill that raised the minimum age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21, banned bump stocks and imposed a three-day waiting period on gun sales. Florida is also one of four states to pass a "red flag law," allowing law enforcement to temporarily confiscate firearms from people found to pose a threat to themselves or others.

The biggest chance to bring about change will come in November. Though the student group will not officially endorse candidates, they plan to call out those who are receiving NRA money and have regressive views on gun reform.

If these Parkland students can turn inaction into action, nonvoters into voters and bring more souls to the polls in November, they would have accomplished something special, just like those young Americans did 50 years ago.

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