Adults won't do anything about gun violence. Maybe teens can.

Wednesday , February 21, 2018 - 5:00 AM3 comments

DON PORTER, special to the Standard-Examiner

“We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.”

— Book of Common Prayer

Maybe the surviving students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will move the needle on gun control in the United States. Heaven knows our nation’s adults haven’t done anything to motivate the National Rifle Association’s bought-and-paid-for Congress and White House.

In the days following last week’s massacre in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 students and teachers were murdered, the teenagers’ articulate outrage has been attention-getting. They’ve exposed politicians’ boilerplate expressions of “thoughts and prayers” as a grotesque inadequacy – which, of course, they are.

The hard part for the young people will be to keep the public engaged. Perhaps the trick will be to organize their peers nationwide: Americans adept at use of social media, imagery, memes, and homegrown slogans that will shame adults into paying attention and actually moving legislation.

I’m on record in this space as doubting that our current crop of politicians and the people who elected them genuinely care about preventing mass killings. I believe a minority of our citizenry cares – they desperately want to confront the problem and affect real change.

But I believe – and the evidence is plain – that most of my fellow Americans don’t care. Or, at the very least, they don’t care enough. They have chosen a no-holds-barred Second Amendment and permitted civilian killers to employ implements of war to murder large numbers of people at once.

This kind of talk will offend people. But object all you want; your choice is irrefutable. Last fall, hundreds of Americans were shot and 58 killed while attending a concert in Las Vegas. The killer used a device called a bump stock, which turns a semiautomatic rifle into something approximating an automatic rifle – burning through clips of ammunition at a much higher rate of speed.

Let’s call it what it is: killing more people more efficiently.

In the days following the Vegas slaughter, conservative, NRA-loving members of Congress expressed a willingness to ban bump stocks. But here we are, months later, and anyone who wants to can still buy a bump stock – because Congress and the White House failed to act to protect Americans.

Maybe the teens who have attracted the attention of this nation’s adults can make arguments that will move lawmakers in the direction of humanity, public health and – dare I suggest? – common sense. Just as the First Amendment is not absolute, neither is the Second Amendment. Even in its disastrous, precedent-reversing ruling in District of Columbia versus Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative lion Antonin Scalia wrote the following:

“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” he wrote. It’s “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

He further declared, “Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding … laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

And in language that is particularly applicable to the current debate, Scalia wrote, “We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms.” He referred to the 1939 case of United States versus Miller, noting “the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time.’ We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’”

That, it seems, would apply specifically to the likes of AR-15s or similar weapons.

If this nation’s teens can make the case that gun regulation is legal and in the public interest, as Scalia clearly explained, maybe progress can be made toward lessening the carnage that so frequently visits our nation’s schools and public places.

If this nation’s teens can reveal the NRA for what it is, a gun manufacturers’/gun sellers’ lobbying group whose express purpose is to ensure the maximum number of guns are sold here and abroad, maybe progress can be made toward lessening the carnage that so frequently visits our nation’s schools and public places.

If this nation’s teens can convince voters to elect candidates that are not beholden to the NRA, maybe progress can be made toward lessening the carnage that so frequently visits our nation’s schools and public places.

You can email Don Porter at and follow him on Twitter @DonPondorter.

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