Tag Archives: Parkland shooting

The ‘next generation’ is stepping up

I am not inclined to bemoan the future of our country based on the behavior of those who comprise “the next generation.” I have sought over many years to give my younger fellow Americans the benefit of the doubt that they’ll step up when it counts the most.

We are witnessing the next generation doing precisely that as it relates to its fear and concern over gun violence.

A lot of Panhandle students are going to march this weekend from Ellwood Park to the Potter County Courthouse. They are part of a national movement called “March For Our Lives.” I read today that national organizers are expecting as many as 1 million marchers from coast to coast.

The Amarillo march is being organized out of Caprock High School, with students seeking to generate interest in communities far beyond Amarillo.

The catalyst is that slaughter in Parkland, Fla., on Valentine’s Day. A gunman killed 17 students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. This massacre was merely the latest in a horrifying string of such mass murders.

It has energized a generation of Americans. Some of them have become media stars. They have spoken with remarkable eloquence about their fear and their desire to see political leaders take action against gun violence.

These young people have taken the point in organizing these marches. They are giving older folks — such as yours truly — greater faith that our country is being taken over by responsible citizens. They are energized by what they deem to be a crisis. They are taking action. They are engaging in activities that signal good citizenship.

These concerns about “younger generation” go back many thousands of years. Quotations attributed to the Greek philosopher Plato lament how badly children behave, how disrespectful they are of their elders and how “they riot in the streets, inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?”

Today’s youngsters make me proud and affirm my faith that our country will find its way well into the future.

Today’s students channeling their grandparents

I am hearing some talk in recent days about the nature of the student-led protests that are developing across the nation in reaction to the spasm of gun violence in our public schools.

It has something to do with an earlier era of protest that got enough people’s attention to hasten the end of a costly and divisive war.

Many observers equate the post-Parkland, Fla., school massacre response to what transpired in the 1960s and early 1970s, when thousands of Americans protested the Vietnam War.

They hope this protest has the staying power of that earlier time, when Grandma and Grandpa were much younger and took on the power structure that continued sending young Americans to die on battlefields halfway around the world.

Young Americans are dying today, too. The difference is that they are dying in classrooms here at home.

I wasn’t among the young folks who marched in the street, carrying a sign, chanting slogans … that kind of thing. I wasn’t wired that way. Indeed, I took part for a time in that war, heading off to Vietnam in the spring of 1969 to serve in the Army.

Upon my return and later my separation from the Army in the summer of 1970, I was filled with plenty of doubt about that war and whether its mission was worth continuing. The Vietnam War did awaken my political awareness, although I put it to use in ways that didn’t require me to stand on street corners yelling my displeasure at U.S. foreign policy.

The Parkland slaughter does seem to have awakened a new generation as well. Students plan to “March For Our Lives” on March 24. In Amarillo — a community not really known as a political hotbed for protest — that event will begin at Ellwood Park, where students and their elders will gather to march to the Potter County Courthouse.

Should this protest shred the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right of Americans to “keep and bear arms”? No. Not in the least. Surely there must be some legislative remedy that preserves the amendment, but which makes it more difficult for nut cases to obtain firearms.

The young people who are on the “front lines” of this struggle are seeking to have their voices heard. Decades ago, another generation of young people were thrust onto the front lines to fight another war. Their voices were heard eventually. They brought change then. Their descendants can bring it once more.

Texas students take a break from protests

Thousands of U.S. students walked out of class today to show their anger and anxiety over gun violence in our nation’s schools.

Oh, but Texas students largely were left out of that protest. They are on spring break this week. So, it follows that there were no classes out of which they could walk to protest gun violence.

The protests continue to build across the land in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 students and staff members dead; a young man is accused of their murders and faces the possibility of a death sentence if he is convicted of this hideous crime.

Lawmakers keep choking on efforts to enact stricter laws regulating the sale and purchase of guns, the fate of assault weapons. They are hung up on arguing whether to arm teachers, giving them a chance to “neutralize” shooters who open fire.

It’s too bad Texas students are on spring break this week. Oh, but let’s not lament their absence today.

On March 24, Texans are going to join other young Americans on a “March For Our Lives” to continue their protests in search of gun violence remedies.

They’re going to march in communities across the nation, including in Amarillo. Students in Amarillo will gather at Ellwood Park and march through downtown, ending up at the Potter County Courthouse.

These protests — instigated and organized by young people whose brethren have been in the line of fire — are important for a couple of key reasons.

They are putting intense and growing pressure on lawmakers who have the authority to act on behalf of those who are making these demands.

They also are sending an important message, which is that they are either old enough to vote now or will be soon; moreover, they say they intend to hold lawmakers accountable for their action — or their inaction.

Students face steep hill on their upcoming march

I am delighted in the extreme to hear about plans for Texas Panhandle students to take part in a national “March For Our Lives” event.

As I understand it, Caprock High School students are leading the organizational effort. They hope to be joined by students from throughout the Panhandle on March 24. They’ll gather at Ellwood Park and will march to the Potter County Courthouse.

They’ll stand on the courthouse grounds and read names of shooting victims and will demand action from our political leaders to do something about the scourge of school-related gun violence.

They have been spurred to hit the streets by the Valentine’s Day massacre of 17 students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The slaughter has produced some student superstars who have emerged as spokespeople for this young people’s crusade against gun violence.

However …

Let’s not sugarcoat the difficulty facing the Panhandle marching delegation. They won’t exactly be preaching to a choir with a history or tradition of heeding calls to enact legislative remedies to curbing gun violence.

Amarillo is represented in the U.S. House by Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, who has been virtually mute on the issue of gun violence. He doesn’t speak with any passion about how Congress can act. Thornberry recently spoke about considering what he called “common sense” measures … whatever the hell that means.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, the state’s senior senator, is pitching legislation that would streamline data collection about military personnel; Cornyn’s bill stems from the Sutherland Springs church massacre in 2017. He has lined up behind stricter background checks. His Senate colleague, Ted Cruz, hasn’t signed on.

The March For Our Lives is intended to let lawmakers know that young Americans who aren’t yet of age to vote will become of age soon. These students say they intend to exercise their vote to support candidates who want to become more proactive on this gun violence crisis.

The majority of the Texas congressional delegation so far isn’t lining up as a receptive audience for the concerns that these students are conveying. I am certain that students who march in two weeks in communities represented by more sympathetic politicians will have a direct impact.

As for what the students here get … they have a steep hill to climb. They need to shout it loudly and clearly what they intend to do once they arrive at the Potter County Courthouse grounds.

Students have a message worth hearing … and heeding

Amarillo students are going to march … for their lives!

You go, young people. You have something important to add to a growing and significant national discussion.

On March 24, around noon, students are going to begin their “March For Our Lives” at Ellwood Park. They are far from alone. They are joining a national movement that seeks to draw attention to the scourge of gun violence. There will be marches in other communities around the nation on that day.

The catalyst occurred in Parkland, Fla., where a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He killed 17 students and staff members before he was arrested.

The shooter might be executed for his crime; or at the least he will spend the rest of his miserable life in prison.

He has ignited a serious call for change.

I heard from a Caprock High School teacher who is helping a couple of young students — Carly Prieto and Wendy Garcia — organize the march.

According to Cindy Dominguez, the students and their families “will take to the streets to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end this epidemic of mass school shootings. The collective voices of the March For Our Lives movement will be heard. That’s exactly what this movement will be about!”

Dominguez notes that “These kids are our future.”

The shooter, indeed, seems to have awakened young people in a way we haven’t yet seen. The Sandy Hook slaughter of 20 first-graders and six teachers didn’t do it. Nor did the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. The Orlando, Fla., nightclub massacre produced more silence, as did the Las Vegas music festival slaughter that killed 59 people.

This one, the Parkland tragedy, seems different in its response.

Dominguez said the march organizers have “invited all the local high schools, middle schools, heck, even the elementary schools can join us.”

The march will start at Ellwood Park and conclude at the Potter County Courthouse. Dominguez indicated that County Judge Nancy Tanner “has yet to say ‘yes'” to the use of the courthouse grounds. I trust the judge will do the right thing and grant permission for these young people to have their voices heard.

This is a big deal. Students want to read the names of the Parkland victims. They intend to recite poems they have written to honor them. And, yes, there will be plenty of rhetoric aimed at the politicians who have the power to legislate remedies to this plague when and where it’s appropriate.

I don’t hold out a huge dose of hope that U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry or U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz will respond immediately to what they hear in Amarillo or anywhere else in Texas.

But … this demonstration must take place. These voices must be heard. Their message must be heeded.

Take guns first, due process later? Sure thing, Mr. POTUS

Donald J. Trump is hardly a champion of civil liberties.

Due process? Who needs it? Why, he is ready to “take guns first” and worry later about “due process.”

The president’s latest popping off occurred today in a meeting at the White House with Democratic and Republican senators. The issue dealt with guns, naturally.

Trump’s statements today continues to add confusion to this debate in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., high school massacre that killed 17 students and staff members.

He has endorsed the notion of raising the minimum age to 21 to purchase firearms; the president wants to arm teachers, giving them firepower to take out shooters when violence erupts; now is wants to grab guns first and worry later about “due process.”

Well, we know what the president thinks of “due process.” He has griped about a White House staff secretary being forced out of office over allegations of spousal abuse, that he was denied “due process.” Oh, but then he egged on rally crowds during the 2016 campaign to “lock her up” when they started chanting about allegations involving Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Due process? Anyone?

There’s a glimmer of good news, though. The National Rifle Association is likely to get angry over the president’s latest rhetorical riff.

I am unwilling to wager, however, whether the president will — pardon the pun — stick to his guns when the NRA starts putting on the pressure.

Trump assumes role of ‘armchair hero’

Donald J. Trump’s profoundly stupid boast today underscores perfectly a point I sought to make in an earlier blog post.

The president assumed the role of “armchair hero” in declaring — during a White House gathering with the nation’s governors — what he would have done had he been present at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Valentine’s Day.

He said he would have stormed into the building when the gunman opened fire, killing 17 students and educators.

Really, Mr. President? This is the kind of idiotic nonsense that drives many of us nuts.

He was speaking about former Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, who reportedly stood by — frozen — while the gunfire erupted inside the high school. He called the deputy’s conduct unacceptable. On that score, the president is correct.

However, to insert himself into a tragedy and assert how he would have acted — days after the fact — speaks to a curious form of projection from someone who one would think should know better.

There can be plenty to say about the deputy’s lack of action when it was need in the moment. We haven’t yet heard from him. I am one who hopes he is able and willing to explain why he didn’t do what he was trained to do.  I don’t expect him to offer a plausible explanation, but the nation has a need to hear his version of events.

Americans do not need to hear senseless boasting from a president who was nowhere near the tragedy when it struck — and broke everyone’s heart.

Trump would have ‘run in there,’ unarmed?

I know this is a rhetorical question, but I am going to ask it anyway.

Why doesn’t Donald J. Trump keep his trap shut when he certainly must know the response he is going to evoke?

I know the answer. He cannot. A man with utterly zero sense of self-awareness doesn’t know how to be circumspect.

Example: He told the nation’s governors today that he would have “run into” Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., when the shooting started “even if I didn’t have a weapon.”

Really, Mr. President? You would have done that had you been there?

According to The Hill: “You don’t know until you test it, but I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon,” Trump told a gathering of governors at the White House. “And I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too.”

Does the chicken hawk in chief really expect us to believe the would do something he didn’t have the inclination to do back when there was a full-scale war raging in Southeast Asia?

A much younger Donald Trump came up with student deferments and a medical deferment —  bone spurs, yes? — to avoid service in the Vietnam War. A couple of million others of us didn’t exercise those options. We went to war while individuals such as Donald Trump sat on the sidelines.

This is the kind of thing that the president should be mindful of when he launches into this bit of faux bravery.

Except that Trump has no awareness of how his tough-guy talk plays to those of us who followed a much different path than the one he took when he had the chance to run toward the gunfire.

NRA produces a new bogeywoman

Dana Loesch has emerged, apparently, as the newest attack beast for the National Rifle Association.

That title used to belong to Wayne LaPierre. Now it’s Loesch, who this week told the Conservative Political Action Conference that “the legacy media loves mass shootings.”

I don’t know what “legacy media” means, but to suggest that the media love these events is to, well, go way beyond the pale of decency.

Loesch got into an on-air snit with CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota, who challenged Loesch’s comment.

See the exchange here.

Loesch, the NRA spokeswoman, sought in the moment to walk back much of what she said. She said she didn’t mean to suggest the media actually “love” seeing people slaughtered as they were at Parkland, Fla., where a gunman slaughtered 17 high school students and staff members.

She sought to suggest that “crying white mothers” drive up ratings, meaning that the media love covering that angle to these tragic events.

I don’t buy Loesch’s attempt at equivocation. To put the words “love” and “mass shooting” in the same sentence sends a clear message, no matter what she intended to convey.

The debate that has ensued across the nation in the wake of this latest school massacre needs some semblance of civility, even though that kind of discussion quite often is difficult to find when the topic centers on guns, the Second Amendment — and the National Rifle Association.

As long as we’re talking about guns …

I understand people’s fascination with firearms. I get that many Americans get a form of “enjoyment” out of shooting them.

What I do not get — nor will I ever understand, more than likely — is the fascination with assault rifles, killing machines that shoot large amounts of ordnance in very little time.

I now will explain why I get the fascination part.

I’ll begin by boasting — just a little — that I have a certain proficiency with firearms. I discovered my rifle proficiency while serving in the U.S. Army. I completed my basic training at Fort Lewis, Wash., in 1968 while toting an M-14 semi-automatic rifle. It used a 20-round magazine full of 7.62-mm rounds and I earned a “sharpshooter” rating with the rifle.

I flew from Fort Lewis to Fort Eustis, Va., for my AIT (advanced individual training). Even though I trained as an OV-1 Mohawk aircraft mechanic, we were issued M-16 rifles, on which we had to qualify. The M-16 was much lighter than the M-14, but it, too, used a 20-round magazine, firing a much smaller caliber round: a .223, barely bigger than the .22-caliber bullet my rifle at home shot. The M-16 is a deadly weapon of war, however. I qualified well on that weapon, too.

I was issued an M-16 when I reported for duty in Vietnam in the spring of 1969 and, thank goodness, I never had to fire it in combat.

But my exposure to those weapons never brought discomfort to me. I felt quite comfortable firing them during training exercises.

Fast-forward to 2003. I was working as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas. I received an invitation to take part in the Amarillo Police Department Citizens Academy. Its aim is to acquaint civilians to myriad aspects of police work. It’s an educational tool that APD uses to give citizens — such as yours truly — a better understanding of the complexities associated with law enforcement.

One aspect of the academy was to spend some time at the firing range. We got to shoot a .38-caliber revolver — a six-shooter; a 9-mm Glock pistol; and an AR-15 rifle (yes, the weapon used in the Parkland, Fla., school massacre on Valentine’s Day).

I am not as familiar with handguns as I am with rifles. But I made a rather startling discovery about myself that day: I’m a pretty good shot with a handgun. I was able to shoot the six-gun well; I was able to handle the more powerful Glock with proficiency; and the AR-15 felt much like the M-16 I was issued in Vietnam.

I came away from the APD Citizens Academy shooting range understanding fully the fascination with shooting weapons at targets.

However, and this interesting, as well, as much “fun” as I had shooting those weapons at the APD range, I didn’t get bitten by the shooting “bug.” I haven’t fired a handgun since that day 15 years ago.

As we continue this national discussion about guns, though, I remain opposed to the idea of allowing the relatively easy purchase of weapons such as the AR-15 that can be used to kill lots of people in no time at all.

They, in effect, are weapons of war, where they and other such weaponry do what they are designed to do. On the streets — or in school classrooms, for crying out loud! — they have no place.