A New Hope

In January, two people were killed and 18 were injured during a school shooting in Benton, Kentucky. The social media response was tepid at best; signs of a public finally exhausted after years of reacting to almost-daily tragedies. That changed last Wednesday.

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Credit: Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty

Nikolas Cruz, a former student of Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, entered the building and carried out a mass shooting that resulted in 17 dead and 14 injured.

Unlike President Obama after the Sandy Hook mass shooting which left 20 children dead, President Trump chose not to appear before the media and address a shocked and mourning public.

On the day of the attack (Valentine’s Day), Trump tweeted his “prayers and condolences” to the families before victim-blaming the survivors twenty-four hours later:

I could hear the uncorking of champagne bottles from the NRA headquarters as I read this tweet. Trump isn’t alone in his reaction. Conservative bottom feeders like Mark Dice and Sean Whalin (who seems hellbent on taking Ed Hardy’s championship title for “douchiest clothing” with his own conservative-inspired brand) also posted tweets/videos chastising the students.

This is a new low we haven’t experienced before in the aftermath of previous mass shootings.

Trump’s reaction is especially infuriating. Like nearly everything the President tweets, it’s also wrong.

In a monumental failure by the FBI, the bureau released a statement on Friday revealing it had received a tip from a caller who was close to the shooter. The caller voiced concerns about Cruz’s “gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior… as well as the potential of conducting a school shooting.” Nearly all of these concerns would be repeated by Cruz’s fellow students in the hours following the shooting.

The call was received on January 5th. The information was never forwarded to the Miami Field Office.

Florida Governor Rick Scott was first to demand FBI Director Christopher Wray step down from his position. This move is not unexpected from Scott, a politician who has proudly supported pro-gun legislation (including strengthening Florida’s awful Stand Your Ground law) and who may be making a run for the senate.

By diverting focus to Wray, Scott conveniently avoids discussing his part in supporting his state’s lax gun laws which enabled this tragedy.

I greatly respect and appreciate FBI Director Wray for his transparency. Calls for his removal from office are premature and would be a detriment to an internal investigation.

Gov. Scott wasn’t the only one to use the FBI as a scapegoat:

This tweet makes ZERO FUCKING SENSE.

The Trump/Russia case is a counterintelligence investigation. This division doesn’t even investigate mass shootings in schools. “Fox & Friends” must not have covered this for 45 to watch.

What ultimately allowed this slaughter to occur is that a nineteen-year-old kid with a disturbed history was able to legally purchase an AR-15.

In the state of Florida, you can purchase an AR-15 or similar type of rifle, without a license or permit and you don’t have to register the weapon. The Sunshine State prohibits you from purchasing a beer (or a handgun) until you’re 21 years old, but you can buy an AR-15-style rifle at 18.

Although Trump hit a new low for a presidential response to a school shooting, the survivors of the attack are taking the leadership role in the nation’s conversation on gun safety.

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Credit: CBS

“…the students at my school felt one shared experience — our politicians abandoned us by failing to keep guns out of schools,” Shooting survivor 17-year-old Cameron Kasky wrote in a must-read op-ed for CNN less than 24 hours after the tragedy occurred.

These kids may be in mourning, but they’re also furious.

“Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have ever been done to prevent this, we call BS,” Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez told a rally crowd on Saturday. “They say that tougher gun laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS.”

Gonzalez is right. Tougher gun laws work. Gun violence has dropped in New York City since passing gun safety reform legislation, the NY SAFE ACT in 2013.

After Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed new gun safety regulations into law in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, firearm deaths have dropped in the state from 226 in 2012 to 164 in 2016.

As for the NRA’s main talking point about a good guy with a gun: the site of Wednesday’s mass shooting had an armed officer on site. He never encountered the shooter.

Discussing members of Congress, Kasky writes: “…this time, my classmates and I are going to hold them to account. This time we are going to pressure them to take action. This time we are going to force them to spend more energy protecting human lives than unborn fetuses.”

Kasky and Gonzalez, along with fellow survivors David Hogg, Alex Wind and Jaclyn Corin have formed a gun safety reform organization called “March for Our Lives.” Their first demonstration is already planned for March 24th. It’s been less than a week since the shooting.

Speaking to co-anchor Martha Raddatz on ABC News’ “This Week,” Kasky explained a goal of the march would be to “create a new normal where there’s a badge of shame on any politician who’s accepting money from the NRA.”

Gov. Rick Scott holds an A+ rating from the NRA.

On Sunday night, The Washington Post reported Trump was asking guests at Mar-a-Lago if he should support gun safety legislation because he had been watching the television appearances of the surviving students. What a leader!

The sad state of our nation is that we shouldn’t have to depend on the survivors of school shootings to convince our elected officials to support policies that will keep them safe.

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Credit: Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty

Our country failed them and instead of waiting for our government to course correct, they’re taking control.

NRA-backed politicians may not be debating a Democratic Senator or a liberal pundit next time they appear in a town hall or on a Sunday show, they’ll be facing the survivors of a massacre.

These kids are the future, and I could not be more hopeful.

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