Tag Archives: gun lobby

Is history about to repeat itself?

The comedian Bill Murray is old enough to remember the Vietnam War and the extreme tumult it created at home.

He writes that today’s uprising among young Americans reminds him of that earlier time, when young Americans marched in protest against a war that had become the classic quagmire.

According to CNN.com: “It was the students who made all the news, and that noise started, and then the movement wouldn’t stop,” he said. “I think, maybe, this noise that those students in Florida are making — here, today — will do something of the same nature.”

“Those students in Florida” have lit a spark among young people from coast to coast and all the areas in the middle of the country. A gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day in Parkland, Fla. He killed 17 people, most of them students. Young Americans across the land are frightened about the prospect of gun violence erupting again and again.

They are going on a collective march Saturday. They’re calling it the “March For Our Lives.” It will be sweep across the nation. Amarillo will be one of the locations where young Americans will speak their mind, they will honor the victims who have fallen not just in Parkland, but in other venues for too long.

The Amarillo event will begin at noon Saturday at Ellwood Park and will wind its way to the Potter County Courthouse grounds. Students will call — they will demand — for action to be taken in Congress and in state legislatures. They want laws enacted that could deter future slaughters from occurring.

Prior mass murders — Columbine, Sandy Hook, Sutherland Springs, Las Vegas, Orlando, Aurora — brought forth anger and misery. Presidents wept in public at the tragedy. Legislators introduced bills to be considered. But nothing happened.

Parkland appears to have been a more effective catalyst, or so it seems. It has produced a number of eloquent spokesmen and women, who happen to be among the younger generation of Americans. They are coming of age. Many of them already are eligible to vote and are pledging to use that power to bring the kind of change they seek in the halls of power.

Does that sound familiar? Sure it does. Bill Murray remembers how it was back in The Day, when young people marched along streets, demanding change in U.S. policy. That change came about largely because of those young Americans’ persistence.

The “March For Our Lives” can bring equally dramatic results. It will require an equal amount of persistence among those young people. It also will require that the rest of us pay attention.

‘March’ could signal a turning point for Panhandle

A lot of Texas Panhandle students, teachers, parents and just plain folks — and that includes yours truly — are hoping for a big weekend.

They’re going to gather around noon Saturday at Ellwood Park in downtown Amarillo. They’ll troop a few blocks east and a bit north to the Potter County Courthouse, where some of them are going to speak to what I hope is a large crowd of marchers and supporters.

It will be part of a national movement called “March For Our Lives.” Students all over America are organizing this event in their respective communities. Amarillo has joined them. Caprock High School students are taking the lead in organizing the local event.

Why is this potentially a big day? It could signal a serious turn in community attitudes about gun violence.

The “March” has been spurred by the Valentine’s Day slaughter in Parkland, Fla., of 17 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and staff members. The gunman is a former student who got expelled for bad behavior. Police arrested him and the local district attorney has charged him with 17 counts of murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty — even if the shooter pleads guilty in an effort to avoid a death sentence.

The Texas Panhandle isn’t known as a hotbed of progressive political thought. The majority of residents here make different political decisions; they support candidates who adhere to a more conservative view.

The “March” on Saturday well might produce a counter-demonstration or two. The marchers are going to lift their voices to seek legislative remedies in the Texas Legislature and in Congress that they hope could restrict the purchase of firearms.

I think it’s important to note that, as one of the Caprock HS student organizers said, this march isn’t intended to be an “anti-gun” protest. I am not hearing any organizers calling for repealing or a serious watering down of the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment. I am sure that pro-gun rights activists certainly see any change in gun laws as an erosion of Second Amendment rights.

The “March” is sure to embolden young people here and across this vast nation with a sense that their voices are being heard on an issue in which they have a direct stake. Indeed, they see themselves and their school-age brethren as being thrust in harm’s way.

They need to be heard. Let’s hope the rest of us hear them when they march through downtown Amarillo and plead for an end to the national scourge of gun violence.

Fewer guns make us safer, not more of them

I keep circling back to this point about allowing teachers to pack heat in the classroom: What if, in the case of a shooter opening fire, the teacher misses and hits another student with a stray bullet?

I heard a teacher today talk about that possibility. He packs a pistol in his boot and said he would shoot someone who entered his classroom “without hesitation.”

Then he said his worst fear is missing the shooter. “What if I hit a student?” he asked. Yes, what if?

Then he sought to justify it by suggesting it’s better for one student to die than many others, prompting my wife to say, “Sure thing, then tell that to the parents of the student.”

The Parkland, Fla., slaughter of 17 people has opened wide the national discussion about gun violence. I’m glad about that. It has produced some interesting proposals by the president of the United States, who is suggesting a law creating a 21-year-old minimum age for the purchase of a firearm. Donald Trump also has spoken favorably about arming teachers, saying that if the Parkland shooter had encountered a teacher with a gun, he wouldn’t have been stopped.

I cannot buy the notion that putting more guns into schools makes them a safer place. National Rifle Association boss Wayne LaPierre said arming teachers would “harden” schools as a target. I don’t buy that, either.

My biggest fear is what happens if a teacher doesn’t hit a shooter with a kill shot, or at least a round that disables him to where he can no longer fire a weapon? Does an enraged gunman keep shooting?

We won’t solve this matter on this blog. It’s just that the notion of arming teachers just doesn’t feel like a sensible solution to curbing the hideous recurrence of gun violence in our schools.

This is not a hallmark of a civilized society and it damn sure is no way to “make America great … again.”

Let ’em allow guns anywhere

This editorial cartoon appeared in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and it speaks to an interesting irony about those who believe “more guns will keep us safe.”

The Conservative Political Action Conference, the Republican National Convention and the White House all prohibit guns. That’s fine with me.

The cartoon, though, does remind me of something a former boss of mine once asked a prominent Republican Texas senator before the Texas Legislature enacted a law allowing Texans to carry concealed handguns.

The 1995 Legislature approved a concealed-carry bill, which Gov. George W. Bush signed into law. The Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked, opposed the legislation and we editorialized against it. The publisher of the paper at the time was Garet von Netzer, as conservative a fellow as anyone I’ve ever known. He didn’t like the concealed-carry bill.

I’ll never forget the time von Netzer asked the late Sen. Teel Bivins, R-Amarillo, this question: “If you think it’s all right for people to carry guns under their jackets, why don’t you allow them to carry those guns onto the floor of the Legislature?” The Legislature chose then to ban guns inside the State Capitol Building.

I don’t recall Sen. Bivins’s answer.

Von Netzer’s question then seems totally appropriate today.

Are teens spooking the pols?

I can think of few things that would be juicier than the idea of teenagers throwing a serious scare into politicians over the issue of gun violence.

The shooter who massacred those 17 people in Parkland, Fla., including 14 high school students, well might have launched a political juggernaut.

It’s true that the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado didn’t do it. Nor did the Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter in Connecticut. This tragic event, though, seems different.

Teens are mounting rallies. Today, a busload of teenagers rode to Tallahassee, Fla., to pressure lawmakers to do something about gun violence. The Florida Senate today, to its shame, voted down a bill that would have banned the sale of assault rifles in that state.

That won’t deter the young activists from expressing their anger and outrage over politicians’ historic inaction — indeed, their cowardice — in facing head-on the ongoing gun violence crisis.

We’re beginning to hear rumblings of gun reform from Republican politicians. At least two GOP governors — Rick Scott of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas — have spoken out loud about the need for gun law reform.

And, oh yes, the president of the United States, Donald Trump, has spoken the words, too.

They understand, I’m quite sure, that many of the teenagers already have the power to vote. Others will join them soon. In the wake of this grievous action in Parkland, they now are speaking with a single, angry voice.

Status quo ‘unacceptable,’ says Abbott; do ya think?

I guess we can now count Texas Gov. Greg Abbott as one who is beginning to see a glimmer of daylight in the search for some way to curb gun violence in this country.

Abbott has called for repairing the background check procedure and for ways to improve mental health screening on those who seek to purchase firearms.

The governor’s remarks today were his first public comments since the Valentine’s Day massacre in Parkland, Fla. that killed 17 people.

According to the Texas Tribune: “It’s clear that the status quo is unacceptable, and everybody in every state must take action,” Abbott told reporters in Austin after voting early in the GOP primary.

The governor said Texas gun safety standards should be reviewed to see whether they need updating. He added that government leaders need to empower local law enforcement to recognize “red flags.”

It appears to me that we are witnessing some fissures appearing in Republican politicians’ reluctance to speak publicly about gun safety reform and other potential legislative remedies to curb the spasm of gun violence that has taken far too many lives already. For far too long we have witnessed GOP politicians back away from offering governmental solutions, seemingly out of fear at how the gun lobby might retaliate against them.

Not this time. Maybe. Perhaps.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said “everything is on the table” regarding gun violence legislation immediately after the massacre; then came Donald Trump’s directive to the Justice Department to draft regulations that would end bump stocks; then, today, Gov. Abbott weighed in with a call for stricter background check and mental health screening.

Are these massive, landmark steps that signal a sea change? Probably not. They are baby steps. They are welcome nevertheless.

At minimum we are witnessing an important discussion that is commencing one state at a time. I’m glad to know that Texas’s political leadership has joined in.

Remember when Obama was going to disarm us?

All this hubbub over gun control, gun violence and whether Donald Trump would inject the power of the presidency into this debate sparked a memory.

It involves former President Barack H. Obama. You see, Obama faced crises similar to what we’re facing now. Shooters opened fire in public schools, in movie theaters and shopping malls. The president would speak to the nation about the need to curb gun violence.

After the Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children and six educators, Obama was moved to tears. He spoke of the innocent children who died along the teacher heroes who fought to spare them from the carnage. He demanded legislation that would curb gun violence.

Then the gun lobby kicked into high gear. It asserted that the president intended to disarm Americans. Obama didn’t respect the Second Amendment, they said.

Despite all the rhetoric we heard from Obama and those of his allies, the Second Amendment remains untouched from the day it was written by the Founding Fathers.

Then just today we hear that the president of the United States, Donald Trump, wants the Justice Department to propose regulations banning bump stocks, the devices used to turn semi-automatic weapons into machine guns. A bump stock isn’t the issue with regard to the Parkland, Fla., school massacre, but it does speak to the issue of gun regulation.

I am waiting now for the gun lobby to rise up against Donald Trump. Will the gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association, accuse the president of seeking to disarm the “law-abiding” public that cherishes firearm ownership?

I doubt we’ll hear it this time. I mean, this president says he favors gun ownership and he favors the Second Amendment.

However, I also believe President Obama sought to assure Americans he also supported the Second Amendment. Yes, I know he said something about following the Australia model, which called for confiscation of firearms after a massacre there in 1996.

The result, though, is that nothing happened. We are as armed today as we ever have been.

I’ll continue to assert that there are ways to tighten regulations without subverting the Second Amendment. I have no solutions. I do have hope — although it is diminishing rapidly — that we can find one.

Is this massacre spawning a political movement?

Are my ears deceiving me or am I hearing the rumblings of an extraordinary political movement born of yet another national tragedy?

A gunman opened fire this past week in Parkland, Fla., killing 17 people. It was yet another in a lengthy — and likely growing — list of public school massacres.

In previous such tragedies — such as Columbine and Sandy Hook, to cite just two — politicians called for action to curb gun violence. Then, to the never-ending shame of those in power, nothing got done. The gun lobby — led by the National Rifle Association — bullied Congress, threatening to beat politicians at the next election if they tinkered with any notion of legislating possible remedies to the epidemic of gun violence.

This time, in the wake of the Parkland massacre, we’re hearing something quite different. High school students, some of whom already are of voting age, are speaking with remarkable eloquence about their belief in the need for legislative remedies.

They speak of their own tragic loss, the deaths of their dearest friends, of the “heroes” who died while trying to save the lives of others. They are warning politicians — Democrats and Republicans — that if they don’t act now, that these young people will take political matters in their own hands.

They are speaking about their electoral power, how they, too, can threaten politicians who don’t stand up to the gun lobby. The picture attached to this post is of high schooler Emma Gonzalez, who called out Donald Trump on the issue of gun control.

It’s still quite early in the aftermath of this latest monstrous act. Still, I cannot get past the gnawing in my gut that we might be witnessing the birth of a political movement conceived by the next — and perhaps greatest — generation of Americans.