Las Vegas Sun

November 16, 2018

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Where I Stand: Don’t bet against the kids getting the job done

Move over baby boomers, GenXers and millennials. Generation Z is coming to the rescue.

I am certain I am not alone in believing how poised, confident and capable so many of the young people were who survived the horrific shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Their efforts at the Florida Legislature, the White House with President Donald Trump and in the town hall meeting on CNN last week showed them not only to be courageous young people but passionate advocates of an issue which now, unfortunately, they know too much about.

These kids — who very shortly will be voters just like millions of other teenagers around the country — are determined to do the job that my generation and each succeeding one has refused to do over the past few decades. And that is to stop the carnage on our streets, in our schools and in our public places that has been the result of some mental case with a weapon of war.

And, unlike so many prior incidents that should have produced action — Sandy Hook, Orlando, Dallas, and Las Vegas to name just a few — this time I think they will get the job done.

I remember in the 1960s when young people were being drafted to fight and die in the Vietnam War, the cry went out to lower the voting age in the United States from 21 to 18. Simply put, if we could fight for our country at age 18, we should be able to vote for its leaders at the same age.

That movement culminated in the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, which lowered the voting age. It was driven by young people — just like the teenagers we see across America today demanding action against guns and for school safety — and it was opposed by, you guessed it, their parents and grandparents, who thought these kids couldn’t handle the responsibility.

Youth and common sense prevailed.

In those days, there were no Twitter or Facebook or other social media that could coalesce common actions in a matter of minutes. It took time, but the logic of the argument finally won the day.

Today, in 2018, I recognize the same energy wrapped around an idea and driven by the young people in this country. This time it is the right of all people to be safe in their homes, workplaces, schools and public areas. Safe from people with weapons of massive destruction and firepower, guns in the hands of people bent on doing the greatest harm in the shortest time.

It is a movement long overdue, and it pits our country’s need to feel safe against a conspiratorial concept of a government hell-bent on taking guns away from law-abiding citizens.

This time the kids aren’t buying the argument of the National Rifle Association the way their parents and politicians have been so eager to accept. This time the young people are “calling b.s.” on anyone who values gun ownership over the lives of their classmates and peers around the country. And, this time, I think Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa are going to get in line to help them.

It is one thing to stand on the principle of unlimited gun rights and quite another to kneel at the grave of a child or grandchild gunned down by an AR-15 in the hands of a mental case.

It is one thing to stand up for the Second Amendment in such absolutist terms as we have been hearing from the NRA and quite another to fall to the ground in grief and despair as we mourn our loved ones cut down at a concert, killed in a nightclub or murdered in a grade school or high school.

It is a very different thing to hear adults give us every reason why we can’t or won’t do anything to stop the violence, and it is quite another to hear the collective voices of our young people on the cusp of voting their conscience, a conscience seared with the blood and pain of their dead classmates and teachers.

Young people will no longer allow their parents and grandparents to send them to school, to church and to a concert knowing full well that they may not come home because those in a position of responsibility have failed to act.

Our kids and grandkids are on the right side of this movement. At some point — and I hope it is very soon and before another child is murdered in his classroom — the adults in society will figure it out.

It cannot be that difficult to choose the lives of those we love over the misguided advocacy for the Second Amendment that was meant to preserve life, not be complicit in taking it.

I am with the kids. Where do the rest of you stand?

Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.