Publisher's Letter: The Parkland Movement
This month’s coverage of the Parkland “March for our Lives” movement by Eric Barton mentions that it is a rare person in Broward County who was not affected in some way by the February shooting that left 17 people dead and even more wounded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. That was certainly true for us at the magazine. Our longtime art director, Craig Cottrell, has two kids at that school. Fortunately, neither were victims, but Craig wrote movingly in our April issue of the anxiety, shared by hundreds of families, when the news of the tragedy first broke, during a brief but terrifying time until they learned that their children were safe.
Barton writes about several of the young people—who are a lot older than they were just a year ago—who have been prominent in what has become a national campaign to address the rash of school shootings by doing something about the proliferation of weapons designed for war— weapons that are unfortunately getting into the hands of disturbed and dangerous people. The students persist despite appalling criticism of their motives by some parties, notably commentators on gun-friendly Fox News.
The Parkland kids are unabashedly political, strident in their criticism of the National Rifle Association. One has announced his attention to run for Congress as soon as he is old enough. What has intrigued us about the reaction of those close to this issue, including parents, is that not all are directing their anger in the same direction. Some actually advocate for more guns, not fewer, as the best way to deal with this awful problem. Others emphasize the obvious need for better mental health treatment. Who can argue with that, except to note that keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill should be a lot easier than dealing with the shrouded complexities of mental health itself. In our society it is often not difficult to recognize that someone is unstable, but it can be very difficult to do anything about it.
On the same day we were proofing Eric Barton’s piece, (he needs little editing) the Sun-Sentinel ran a page-one story on Fort Lauderdale being sued because it has refused to renew the contract of the company that stages gun shows at War Memorial Auditorium in Holiday Park. The city’s position, which is clearly a side effect of the school massacre, is that a city-owned building is not the proper place for a gun show. The city is not against gun shows in general, just not in a public building in a public park. The gun show promoter is suing on the grounds that the city is violating its free speech rights and it should not be treated differently from any other organization.
See the difficulty? Gun shows have been around for years, but they are now under pressure for providing loopholes in the laws affecting gun dealers. It is argued that vendors can sell weapons without the background checks required by established gun dealers. We trust this case will not go all the way to the Supreme Court.
Ironically, the same Sun-Sentinel issue carried the report of the killing of one police officer and the wounding of six others in South Carolina. The shooter had posted online that he loved the smell of gunpowder and enjoyed shooting the same kind of M-24 rifle he had used in Vietnam. That is an automatic weapon designed for war. Is this man crazy? Well, anybody who shoots seven police officers is not exactly normal.
Piling irony upon irony, the same Sun-Sentinel issue, on its editorial page, gave a strong endorsement to Congressman Ted Deutch. It called him a model congressman. Among other accolades, the paper wrote: “Always an advocate for comprehensive gun regulation, his concern was animated by the Feb. 14 tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Limited gun violence has become a defining issue for him.”