Something’s happening here

  • Trump-Guns-14

    President Trump bows his head with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at the White House.


  • Since the horrific killing of 17 young people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla., something, to invoke the old Stephen Stills song, has been happening.

    And what that something might be isn’t yet quite clear. But, at the moment, it does seem that, this time will be different. This time there will be action.

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    If there is change, it will be because of two X factors not present after past gun tragedies and subsequent gun control debates. The first is young people, starting with some of the young people who were at Parkland but survived. They are leading the charge this time. They are saying: We will not accept being shot down, in cold blood, in our schools.

    The children are leading us.

    The second X factor is the current president of the United States.

    First, the president convened an extraordinary listening session in the White House, with parents of children slain in Florida and previously in Newtown, Conn., and Columbine, Colo.

    The nation saw their righteous anger. A humbled, mostly quiet, president heard them.

    And then he convened an equally extraordinary meeting of Congressional leaders to ask: What must we now do and how do we assure action? At this meeting the president commited to helping to pass a tougher background checks bill, to eliminating bump stocks, and more.

    There is now an emerging national philosophic consensus: The country will not continue to accept mass shootings. We will not remain passive. At last, as a country, as a culture, we are fighting back.

    A few short days ago, there was little consensus on policy — precisely what to do in terms of legislation.

    But that is changing, too. A consensus is forming around the background-check legislation now being reshaped by Sens. Pat Toomey (D, Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D, W.Va). As Sen. Chris Murphy (D, Conn.) has said, we know tougher checks can work and that the public favors them. There is no reason not to move but political cowaradice.

    Exercising some control over assault weapons will be tougher, politically and practically. So will school safety, which animates this president.

    But, as Andrew Pollack, the father of Meadow Pollack, who was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, said at the listening meeting: After 9/​11, we secured our airports. After Columbine, Newtown, and so many other massacres, we should have secured the schools.

    This is the truth. School security is not an insoluble or insurmoutable problem. We can institute better drills for evacuation and resistance. We can institute safe rooms in our schools. Every school should have at least one well-trained and armed cop.

    And there is nothing wrong with training teachers, who volunteer, in firearm use and self-defense. Deterrence works. Mass assassins go after weak targets and people who are not protected and cannot fight back.

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    What may be happening here, accross the political spectrum, and running an age and ideological spectrum, is a gathering strength of national will. And, we are not there yet, but this emerging consensus is transpartisan. New options and approaches — smart guns, gun-violence restraining orders, raising the age at which one can buy a gun — are on the table. Few options are off the table, for the president, or most Americans.

    Mr. Trump is at the most fascinating point of his presidency, thus far. He can break this issue open and achieve movement that has eluded other presidents. Who better to challenge the NRA? This is a potentially historic and defining moment — like Nixon’s opening to China. Nixon’s overture was something no Democrat would have dared do, in part because of Richard Nixon.

    It may be true that only a pro-gun, pro-NRA president, like Mr. Trump, could achieve some restrictions on guns and make our schools safer. He says he is willing to lead. Mr. Murphy says it will not happen without the president.

    What may be happening here is that we are asserting, as a society, that we are not helpless. We will fight for our lives and for our children, using any legal and practical means available.

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