I admire the Parkland kids: students who were a part of one of the worst mass school shootings, now turned activists. They have taken their pain and tragedy and turned it into a movement for gun control. While most people would still be reeling from the tragedy (and rightfully so), Emma Gonzales, David Hogg, Alex Wind, Jacyln Corin are among others who have decided to fight for more sensible gun laws. That is strength that most, including myself, do not possess. I love these kids and for the first time truly feel hope for the future. However, they are going up against a formidable foe: gun enthusiasts and the National Rifle Association, or the NRA.
In America, any type of gun restriction, no matter how sane it sounds, will be met with opposition. Any talk of reform translates to, “The government is trying to take our guns!” Or my favorite, “We must protect our gun rights to fight the tyranny of big government.” I laugh when I hear and read these statements because let’s be real for a second: The “government” has an endless supply of weaponry that can squash any armed rebellion, no matter what size. You may have Tec’s, but they have tanks. Still, gun collectors, hunters, militia groups, and those who love firearms will tell you in a heartbeat why they love their guns and why guns laws are a way to strip their rights as an American citizen.
I grew up with guns. My Grandfather was an avid hunter and he showed my brother and I how to shoot when we were 9 and 7. Even though I was around firearms when I was young and feel comfortable with them, I hate them. I always said, “Guns make punks feel powerful.” They can escalate a situation from 0 to 100 in a matter of minutes and that is one of reasons why I don’t own one. While I am not a fan of firearms, I do support the Second Amendment, especially for Black people. We should have the right to own a gun, but an AR-15 assault rifle?
While the Parkland kids are fighting the NRA, arguably the most powerful lobbying group in the country (and in my opinion, the second most powerful entity in country, behind the media), they are also fighting American culture. Gun ownership in the U.S. is unlike anything in the world. It is fanatical. It is not only your right, but your duty to own a firearm to protect you, your family, loved ones, and your country. Owning a gun is like reciting the pledge of allegiance; it is your responsibility as a citizen of the US. If you do not carry one, you are not a real American. Attacking gun ownership is attacking this country and anyone who does is viewed as a traitor and should be dealt with like one.
I don’t have a lot of faith in comprehensive gun legislation being passed. When the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut occurred, leaving 20 kids dead, there was an outcry for banning assault weapons. President Barack Obama appeared on television crying for the murdered children. I believed it was a turning point for America. “We may finally get something done,” I said to my partner Michelle. Then, the NRA responded. Wayne LaPierre, President of the lobbying group, said in a ridiculous statement that guns were needed and “the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” That was a rallying cry for many gun enthusiasts and a signal for NRA funded politicians: “Don’t get out of line or you are gone.” After that, talk of gun legislation went nowhere. I said to myself, “If they don’t care about little white kids dying, there is no hope.”
To fight for sensible gun laws is to also fight against racism/white supremacy. Many gun owners are fueled by this notion of “The Blacks” rising up and taking revenge on what has been done to them or “The Illegals” overrunning the borders” and of course “The Muslims” bombing our country. Gun manufacturers and lobbying groups sell white people on this myth of eminent danger. Realizing that the country is turning browner and that white people will be the minority in 30 years terrifies them, so what better way to make yourself feel safe from “the others” than to buy a gun. Addressing gun laws and the racist opposition behind it will also force America to see that there is a problem with white male anger. It is not a coincidence that almost all of these mass shootings are done by white men; most who harbor racist/white supremacist beliefs. Instead of blaming the problem on mental health, we need to attack the chief reason – racism/white supremacy. But to do that, we would have to actually admit racism is real, and that is a conversation that has evaded us.
In sports, one of the lessons you learn is “know your enemy.” Learn how they move, strike, and operate. Know their strengths and weaknesses. I think about that when I see the Parkland kids. I love the energy and the force behind this movement. It is about time people come together and fight for sensible gun laws. I fear that they don’t understand their opponent. It is not just Smith and Wesson, the National Rifle Association, or even Republicans who are hell bent on allowing any type of gun ownership. It is America. The right to bear arms is as American as baseball, apple pie, and racism. This country bleeds the Second Amendment. In May of 2014, in an open letter to the families of the victims of a shooting at University of California Santa Barbara, political commentator Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher (better known as Joe The Plummer) said, “Your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.” Let that sink in. The right to own a firearm is nearly unbeatable. To the Parkland kids, Godspeed. I, along with millions of people, are right there with you, supporting you, and cheering you on. You will be painted as unpatriotic, anti-Second Amendment, a tool of the liberal establishment, a gun hater, and many nastier words I choose not to print here. Your life will be threatened and many people will despise you. Stay the course. Perhaps you can be the one to slay the dragon, to bring sensible gun laws to America, and make tragedies like the Parkland massacre a rarity. Just know that your enemy is not going down without a fight. This is going to be a long battle. Get ready.