In nearly every major political or social movement in the last 100 years, we have seen the youngest generation provide the enthusiasm and energy to accomplish required change.
In American history, this youngest generation helps motivate and inspire the older generations, which can serve as mentors and the “village elders”, to believe in key moments that societal change can actually occur.
This was true for the anti-War, civil rights, women’s and economic fairness movements of the 20th century, the MeToo movement of the last few years, and now it is unfolding as millions will likely gather this weekend in the "March For Our Lives" events.
March for Our Lives 2018
Students from Centreville, Va., wear targets on their chests as they arrive for the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018, in Washington, D.C.
As a gun-owning Texan, who has enjoyed hunting and target shooting in his entire adult life, I have been incredibly frustrated by the lack of progress of common sense gun reform in the midst of continual mass shootings (even a mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut), and the near-mythic ability of the National Rifle Association to block legislation that would create safer environments in our communities.
Well, it looks like the NRA has met their match in the rising voices of a new generation lifted up by the words and initial actions of the young men and women of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
It seems so obvious to the vast majority of Americans and gun-owners that policies could be put in place which preserves the rights actually guaranteed in the Second Amendment, while simultaneously passing gun-reform supported by most Americans.
However, the NRA has managed to use, what I would describe as the myth of its power, to cower politicians into fear and make the debate a false binary choice: you are either for the Second Amendment or you are against it, you are either against all gun reforms or you want to take away everyone’s guns.
We all know this to be a fiction, but the NRA has managed to convince weak politicians that this is the only path.
The NRA says it represents 5 million members.
According to 2017 figures from the Pew Research Center, four-in-ten Americans say they either own a gun themselves or live in a household with guns, so it is a fiction that the NRA speaks for all of us gun-owners.
According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted last month, 77 percent of Americans said Congress isn't doing enough to try to stop shootings such as the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and 62 percent said the same of Trump.
A large number feel “strongly” that action on this front has been inadequate — 59 percent in the case of Congress, 50 percent as to Trump.
Universal background checks with integrated databases, limiting gun sales to only adults over 21, banning bump stocks, banning high capacity magazines, and having much stricter requirements for buying semi-automatic assault rifles also seem to have broad support.
Yes, the NRA gives large sums of money at election time, and these outsized contributions enhance the political impact of their limited membership of gun-owners, but it is much more the fact that leaders have bought into the myth of their power and their loud voices represented on cable television and the Internet, and thus have been afraid to take a stand on behalf of all Americans.
Their only real power is in low turnout primaries, years ago this included both Democrats and Republicans, but today this mainly exists in only the Republican primaries. Republicans know general election voters don’t support the NRA’s stand, but they are afraid to be called anti-Second Amendment among primary voters.
The fear of this myth of the NRA’s power by many leaders to do anything about violence in our communities caused by guns has caused a long stalemate to accomplish any gun reform.
All of us gun-owning and non-gun-owning Americans grew frustrated and upset that nothing would get done, but it seemed those voices were ignored or drowned out by the NRA.
Enter the Parkland high school students, the youngest generation, walkouts at high schools, and now the March for Our Lives rally being held in Washington, DC and around America.
We are seeing a new generation, being counseled and encouraged by the older generations, to raise their voices on this issue like never before.
It may take months and years of their actions, but I don’t see them backing down until policies are put in place in Washington, DC, in states across America, and in the communities where they live.
Like the younger generations of previous social movements, even in the face of being mocked, threatened, and attempts to shut them out, they are only getting louder and more engaged. And they have become experts at using the social media platforms and technology created in the last ten years to enhance and broaden their voices.
As people gather across America this weekend to demand action on gun reform, it will include the diversity of America from all sexes, age groups, economic levels, races, religions, and it will include gun-owners and non-gun owners alike.
The question on the table: will the current leaders understand the power and import of this movement and do something now, or will they have to lose elections before they understand they believed a myth, and couldn’t accept the reality given voice by today’s youngest generation?