In the weeks following the shooting at Parkland, Florida, many state legislatures have had renewed talks about gun control laws. Everyone from President Trump to high schoolers walking out of class have had something to say. Despite the newfound power of the #neveragain movement, results in the State Capitol have been nowhere to be found.
Parkland has sparked a national conversation on guns not seen since Sandy Hook thanks in part to a group of outspoken high school students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Emma González, David Hogg, and Cameron Kasky helped start the now famous #neveragain following the shooting on February 14. Since then, they have appeared on TV numerous times and have accrued a following of almost two million people combined on Twitter.
President Trump has surprisingly been a vocal supporter of more gun control as well, calling for a ban on bump stocks, a device that makes it easier to rapidly fire bullets from a semi-automatic weapon using the recoil from the weapon. He has also said some controversial things about the Parkland shooting, from saying he would run into the school to save children to stating that the US should “take guns first, go through due process second.” The latter has been especially criticized by gun rights advocates as “unconstitutional”.
Despite the visibility of the #neveragain movement and the supportive comments from President Trump, actual legislation on gun control has been roadblocked in several states, notably Minnesota, and in Congress. Florida Senate passed a bill banning bump stocks, raising the age to 21 for all gun purchases, and created a three day waiting period for most guns. It narrowly passed 21 to 18 in the Florida Senate, making it the only notable bill outside of the nationwide Fix NICS bill in Congress to be considered. No executive order has been passed by Trump on bump stocks yet and one Minnesota gun control bill was tabled in committee while the other faces long odds as well.
DFL Representative Dave Pinto proposed a gun control bill last week to committees and forced discussions on the bill using a relatively unknown house law. Pinto’s bill calls for Police and family members to petition to confiscate someone’s guns if they could be considered dangerous to either themselves or to other people. The inability of the Police to confiscate the shooter’s weapons prior to the Parkland shooting was a major talking point in the last two weeks. Supporters and opponents both showed up en masse to speak for their side in a heated discussion. After a while, Republican Mark Uglem called for a vote to table Representative Pinto’s bill and it was promptly tabled following a vote down party lines with one Republican voting no with the Democrats.
DFL Representative Linda Slocum’s bill has yet to be discussed, but has already faced much harsher criticism than Pinto’s bill did. She calls for many semi-automatic pistols, shotguns, and rifles to be considered felonious to own under a new “definition of what an assault weapon is.” The bill also states that people who owe child support should be barred from owning any type of gun, a measure she has since decided not to include following widespread criticism. In addition, Slocum asks for all silencers, bump stocks, and large capacity magazines to be banned, and all gun and ammunition sales to be processed through a licensed dealer.
Put on notice by the NRA and Minnesota Republicans, Slocum’s bill has received national attention for its “extreme nature” and has forced her to amend several of the proposed laws before it is even discussed. Slocum personally has been sent death threats and hateful messages and emails by the thousands since introducing her bill. “I am way open to conversations, concerns, but I’m way not open to uncivility, to the rudeness and the death threats,” said Slocum.
Even with the lack of results in the Capitol, students and activists on both sides of the debate aren’t backing down anytime soon. Many high schools around the country have had student walkouts to protest the lack of gun control legislation. Two major walkouts are also planned for later this month on March 14 and March 24. Both marches are organized by separate groups, the Women’s March Youth EMPOWER and by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students, creators of the #neveragain movement.
On the other side, the NRA and gun right advocates have been hard at work campaigning against gun control across the nation. Many pro gun activists holding marches of their own in cities across the US in the last couple weeks, although no national march has been planned. The NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch has appeared on many TV stations and at major events like CPAC to defend the NRA and guns from the newfound scrutiny.
While it is uncertain what legislation, if any, is passed in the next few months on guns, one thing is clear: this issue will not go away as easily as it has before. Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, and Cameron Kasky have momentum. But can they turn it into anything but white noise?