A sign in downtown Newark, NJ today: “Thank You High School Students!”
There are few things more inspiring and more powerful than a mass movement, a truly massive movement, led by young people. And since the Parkland, Florida shooting on Valentine’s Day, that is clearly what is emerging in the USA around the issue of gun violence. And that movement is directly taking on the NRA.
I’ve just come back from the impressive March For Our Lives demonstration in Newark, NJ. Upwards of 2000 people took part, one of over 800 events around the country.
I’ve been going to demonstrations in Newark and this area since I moved here 20 years ago, and I don’t think I saw more than a dozen people that I knew today. Many of those present were young people, from grade school on up. It was multi-cultural, though predominantly white, and it was well-organized.
Some of the more creative signs included: “Vaginas have more regulation than guns,” “My life matters” (held by a child), “You know things are messed up when librarians are marching,” “They say the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun BUT that just sounds like someone trying to sell TWO GUNS, “Did you hear about the drive-by knife throwing or the bat massacre? The weapon matters,” “Books Not Bullets,” and my favorite: “There should be a background check before the NRA can buy a Senator.”
As the action progressed, through its gathering and speaking and marching and then speaking again phases, I grew more and more hopeful, sensed the power of this movement. There was a determination, a spirit of “we’ve had enough,” that permeated it, and for very good reasons.
The Parkland shooting and, more particularly, the activist response to it by the Parkland students which electrified the country and drew sympathetic mass media attention—excepting Fox News and their ilk—is like nothing I have seen in a very long time.
But can this movement defeat the NRA?
Make no mistake about it, that is what will determine this movement’s success or failure. The NRA as an organization must be so seriously weakened that it loses its power to threaten and buy politicians. Only then will it be possible to pass the mix of national and state laws which can dramatically reduce gun deaths and mass shootings.
I wonder if, within this glorious new mass movement, there is consideration being given to a very focused campaign on the NRA, from calling for public resignations by individual members, to demanding politicians refuse to accept NRA money, to demonstrations, nonviolent sit-ins and hunger strikes at NRA offices and gun stores that sell automatic weapons and bump stocks, and other tactics.
I would expect some in this movement to counsel a less activist course of action. That always happens in a genuinely mass movement. Some are cautious, some are ready to storm the barricades right now, and then there’s everything in between. The key thing in navigating that reality is not to demonize those who, motivated by the best of intentions and their personal experiences, have a different point of view but, instead, find ways to be complementary. We should always be open to new, fresh ideas. Given the state of things in the country and world, the last thing we need is just those things that we’ve been doing for decades.
If young people continue to be in leadership to a major extent, I can’t see this happening.
The political defeat of the NRA would do much more than reduce gun violence. It would open up the possibilities for progressive legislation and action in many areas because the politicians put into office and controlled by the NRA are also the politicians who want to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, continue denying the reality of dangerous climate change, maintain and expand the US empire around the world, oppose full equality and justice for women, people of color and lbgt people, take a repressive view toward immigrants rights and the role of the police, and more.
Truly, the fight to dramatically reduce gun violence, given this new, remarkable, youth-led mass movement which is unfolding before our eyes, could be a turning point. It deserves our thanks, and it needs our support, right now.
Ted Glick has been a progressive activist and organizer since 1968. Past writings and other information can be found at http://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.