Thousands of people across the nation rallied and marched Saturday in support of stricter gun control. In Galveston, about 200 adults and students held a rally at Fort Crockett Park on the seawall.
What’s remarkable is that while adults attended the rallies, the events often were led and organized by young people. What’s more remarkable, is that some adults on social media and public forums derided and sometimes mocked the young people in some particularly nasty, name-calling ways and concocted material meant to undermine the students’ credibility.
There’s the doctored animation of Emma González, 18, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior, tearing the U.S. Constitution in half, for example. That doctored image circulated on social media during the rally, after it was lifted from a Teen Vogue story about teenage activists, according to reports.
In the real image, González is ripping apart a shooting target, according to reports.
González also has been targeted for wearing a Cuban flag patch sewn on her jacket, which she said is a tribute to her heritage, but incited accusations that she’s a communist.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s Kyle Kashuv, 16, who visited President Trump and five Republican U.S. senators just three weeks after the killings to offer alternatives in the debate, according to reports.
As some Marjory Stoneman Douglas students fight for legislation to limit access to guns, particularly AR-15s — the type used in the school shooting — Kashuv wants to talk about other ways to combat gun violence.
He argues his message is being drowned out by his peers and the media, which also is a shame.
This weekend, Kashuv told the Sunday morning political interview show “Face the Nation” he wasn’t invited to Saturday’s march.
“I’m here for one very simple reason, I don’t want to see this ever happen again,” he said during the show. “And what I saw at the march yesterday, which really frustrated me, is that I have a differing point of view, but what really concerned me was that how come I wasn’t invited to speak at the march because, as Americans, we all have different points of views and it’s important to represent them all equally.”
Some conspiracy theorists have posited that teenagers were being manipulated and their marches are financed by left-wing, anti-gun activists.
Somehow, to those critics, it was beyond the realm of possibility that participants of the March for Our Lives rallies were genuinely inspired to act by the shooting last month that killed 17 people.
It’s true there’s money behind the gun control movement.
“Major organizational muscle behind the march, both in Washington and in cities nationwide, comes from two well-known gun control advocacy groups, neither of which has a history of violent behavior,” according to PolitiFact, owned by the nonprofit Poynter Institute for Media Studies. “A number of related organizations have lent their support, including the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and celebrity donors have given millions of dollars.”
But isn’t it also true that the NRA pumps a lot of money behind its own cause? It’s not all that surprising nor sinister.
The point is, none of us has to agree with these students. But we could listen to both sides like adults, without the usual bitter partisan politics and asinine rhetoric.
In these pages, we have long argued that there’s no statistical link to the number of guns in private hands and the homicide rate, and we’ve argued that bans on particular weapons or accessories are probably not going to be effective. We respect the Second Amendment and would fight to protect it.
But some people treat the Second Amendment with an almost religious deference while hardly managing to muster passing courtesy for the First Amendment as they use dirty tricks to silence debate.
This debate will benefit neither from demonization on the right nor shunning on the left nor propagandizing from either extreme.
We should encourage and applaud students exercising their First Amendment rights and their fight to go to school without fear. For many, it’s their first introduction — outside a textbook — to democracy. We should encourage them to engage in productive debate and discussions, something sorely missing these days.
Just because they’re young, doesn’t mean they’re off limits to criticism. But the reality is, they are young and we should keep it civil.
Because if adults can’t set an example, who will?
• Laura Elder