Las Vegas Sun

November 15, 2018

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Sun editorial:

Young activists refuse to be ignored

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Wade Vandervort

March for Our Lives activist and Stoneman Douglas high school shooting survivor Ryan Deitsch, center, speaks to reporters during the Road to Change gun control reform town hall at Sierra Vista High School, Monday, July 16, 2018.

For any Nevadan seeking public office, here’s word to the wise in relation to Monday’s March for Our Lives event in Las Vegas.

Ignore these young people at your own peril.

The student activists who participated in the event showed themselves to be highly motivated, well-organized, richly informed and solidly resolute in their demand for change in the nation’s gun policies.

They’ve learned the fundamentals of activism well, and they’ve found traction in their message.

This is a generation of Americans who’ve grown up in an era when reasonable restrictions on guns have been tossed out the window in favor of a fear-fueled, Wild West approach in which extremists contend that the only solution to gun violence is more guns.

That mindset has only led to a proliferation of firearms and a growing amount of violence, of which the nation’s youth has borne the brunt in way too many cases. Not only have they lost their lives and suffered physical injuries, but their sense of security has been shattered.

And now, quite justifiably, they’ve had enough.

They’re no longer waiting patiently for their elders to do what’s right and adopt responsible gun legislation. They’re demanding it, and they’re working to defeat candidates who continue to sacrifice lives to maintain support from the National Rifle Association and help feed the organization’s insatiable appetite for more gun-buyers.

“If you don’t listen to young people, we’re going to vote you out,” local activist Karl Catarata said at the event, drawing cheers from the crowd of several hundred people of all ages.

That’s no idle threat. Although the crowd included a number of students yet to reach voting age, the activists included several college-age students like Catarata.

Although the purpose of March for Our Lives isn’t to promote either party or any particular candidate, the group showed it was paying close attention to leadership when several speakers took issue with Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt. Laxalt, who won the Republican primary for governor, was criticized over the state’s failure to implement the 2016 ballot initiative calling for expanded background checks on gun purchases.

And while Laxalt has addressed school safety by holding a discussion with educators and law enforcement officers, Catarata pointed out that he didn’t bring young activists to the table for that discussion.

Clearly, Catarata and his cohorts are committed to holding leaders accountable.

Keep in mind, too, that the activists are members of Generation Z, the massive demographic group born after 1996. The 61 million-strong generation will be hugely influential in elections once it matures.

So any candidate who’d dismiss the March for Our Lives movement as a passing fad among a select group of kids is taking a huge risk.

The better approach? Treat them like the patriotic Americans they are. Engage them, listen to their ideas and start representing them responsibly.