Community Health & Safety Guns

Will Saturday’s March For Our Lives Events Lead to a Change in Public Policy? Yes. No. Maybe.

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

The young speakers who took the stage, one after the other, at Saturday’s #MarchForOurLives rally held in Washington D.C.—the largest of the 800 plus sister events held around the world—were astonishingly poised, articulate, moving, and memorable.

Even Samantha Fuentes whose adrenalized nerves got to her causing her to throw up on stage. Or maybe especially Fuentes, who took a bullet in her thigh and whose face was lacerated by shrapnel during the Parkland shooting.

“I just threw up on international television, and it feels great!” when she returned to the mic, and then went on to deliver a powerful speech.

There was also eleven-year-old Naomi Wadler, an Alexandria fifth-grader, who quoted Toni Morrison in her speech 3-minute 30-second speech. When she talked of representing the “African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper” and the “African American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential..” she spoke with more poise and moral heft than most 35-year-olds could muster.

Representing Los Angeles, there was 17-year-old Edna Chavez from South LA, who, like Wadler and others from Chicago and elsewhere, also pulled the conversation away from mass shootings, to neighborhood gun violence.

“..I have learned to duck from bullets before I learned how to read,” she said to the crowd.

Later she asked those gathered to say the name of her brother who, when he was still in high school, was shot to death outside her family’s home.

Chavez told of watching her older brother’s skin turn ashen as his life drained out of him. “Ricardo was his name,” she said.

“Ricardo! Ricardo!” the crowd chanted in return.

The last of the students to speak was Emma González, one of the highest profile of the student organizers from Parkman, Florida.

First González described with calm ferocity the terrible after effects of the mass shooting she and her friends had lived through, and named each of the seventeen who had been killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentines Day of this year, and the ten thousand small actions of living they “would never…” do again.

Then she stopped speaking and was absolutely silent for four minutes and 26 seconds, staring straight ahead, unmoving, as tears rolled down her cheeks, and her breathing occassinally turned labored and rough with grief, and the crowd—which had no idea what González was doing—mostly gazed back at her transfixed.

Finally, a timer went off.

“Since the time that I came out here, it has been six minutes and 20 seconds,” González said, after shutting off the timer. “The shooter has ceased shooting, and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape, and walk free for an hour before arrest.

“Fight for your lives, before it’s someone else’s job,” she said. And then she left the stage.

Gonzalez’ six minutes and 20 seconds offered the day’s most indelible moments.

Yet, the impassioned young people who attended marches all over the nation were also impressive, including those in states like Montana, Texas, and Oklahoma where, for a great many kids, learning to shoot is an important and valued right of passage.

But, will all this passion translate into the kind of sustained action that results in legislation?

No one yet knows, of course. But elements of that answer may be found in a number of places.


First some numbers on gun ownership

As most of you already likely know, a look at polling on the matter suggests that most Americans are in favor of stronger laws regarding gun ownership. This includes the majority of Americans who own firearms.

“Americans have a deep history and a complex relationship with guns. A point of pride for some and a source of fear for others, guns continue to ignite sharp debates in our society,” writes Ruth Igielnik and Anna Brown of the Pew Research Center—stating the obvious on the topic of guns.

According to a 2017 Pew poll looking at the demographics of gun ownership, three in ten Americans own guns themselves.

This leaves seventy percent of Americans as non-gun owners. But a little over one out of ten who don’t have guns of their own, live in a household with a gun.

And 48 percent of those surveyed grew up in a house where a gun or guns were present.

Moreover, seventy percent of Americans have shot guns.

Most gun owners say that the primary main reason they own a gun is for protection. As one might guess, the next most common reason for gun ownership is for hunting.

Sport shooting is a close third, when it comes to the list of reasons why people own firearms.

As for stronger gun laws, highest on the list of favored legislation according to the Pew poll is preventing the mentally ill from getting access to guns.

But, eighty-four percent of Americans, according to Pew, also want background checks for all gun purchases, including private sales and at gun shows.

Nearly 77 percent of those who favor background checks for all gun transfers are gun owners.


Post Parkman numbers

Quinnipiac University of Hamden, CT, began doing polls on the issue of attitudes toward gun legislation after the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012.

On February 20 of this year, Quinnipiac released a new national poll, which the university said showed a sharp increase over all its previous national polls on the topic.

According to Quinnipiac, in this new poll American voters support stricter gun laws, 66 to 31 percent, with 50 to 44 percent of gun owners expressing the desire for stronger laws.

Support for universal background checks was almost….well…universal, scoring 97 in favor, versus 2 percent, against. Among gun owners, the numbers were 97 to 3 percent.

The new poll also showed a 67 to 29 percent split favoring a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons, and 83 to 14 percent favoring a mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases.

“In the last two months, some of the biggest surges in support for tightening gun
laws comes from demographic groups you may not expect, independent voters, men, and whites with no college degree,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

Yet, despite year after year of poll numbers suggesting that the majority of Americans want stronger rules for how the nation deals with its guns and ammo, as the students who have made this issue their own have pointed to repeatedly, except in very blue states, gun regulations are difficult to pass, and on a national level, passing stricter gun laws has, in recent years, been all but impossible.


Soft support v. hard support

So, does the outpouring of support for the students who spoke so eloquently this past Saturday mean that lawmakers will behave differently than they have in the past?

On that count there is both bad news and good news. (Which is which depends, one presumes, on where you sit on the pro/con stronger gun laws spectrum)

In addressing the question, stories in both Vox and in the New York Times point to the element that has prevented the passage of new legislation in the past. Call it the passion gap.

Vox reporter German Lopez points out that most polls find that a majority of Republicans back universal background checks, a ban on assault-style weapons, a federal database to track gun sales, prohibitions on people with mental illness, and barring people on no-fly or watch lists from buying firearms.

“In fact,” he writes, “GOP support for three of these policies tops 75 percent.”

Where the problem develops for those who favor tougher gun legislation is the matter of “issue intensity,” as German puts it.

Roughly translated this means that although lots of Americans support gun control, “it’s not really their top priority when they go out to vote.” Meanwhile, those who oppose stricter gun laws “are simply more likely to make it the one issue they’ll vote on.”

Writing for the New York Times, Margot Sanger-Katz outlines the same issue.

She point to a Maine ballot measure that would have instituted universal background checks in the state. Polling suggested the measure would pass, but instead it crashed and burned in defeat.

“We know for a fact we lost the argument at the kitchen table and the bar and the bowling alley,” David Farmer, one of the ballot measure’s lead supporters told Sanger-Katz “The gun enthusiasts were talking to their friends and relatives and neighbors. They felt about it in a way that was so passionate that they won those one-on-one encounters, and they were very successful in bringing in people to their side.”

Research from Pew shows that gun advocates are also more likely to talk to theirlawmakers, or to give money to organizations that will fight for their issue. That passion gap sends a signal to legislators, writes Sanger-Katz, letting them know “that there is robust opposition even to laws that show strong public support in polls.”


The NRA ups the intensity

It is news to exactly no one that the National Rifle Association gives mountains of money to the campaigns of those running for office whose positions on gun legislation it likes. And, for those running for office who favor tough gun laws, the NRA will spend additional mountains of cash for ads in opposition to those gun-regulation-friendly candidates.

Much of the NRA’s advertising is, of course, also directed at consumers, which means that a large portion of its ad buys are made in digital media.

Interestingly, according to a story by science writer Katharine Gammon published this past Friday in the Chicago Tribune, immediately after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, which resulted in the murder of seventeen students and teachers, the NRA suddenly stopped all of its digital consumer advertising, including ads on YouTube, banner ads on websites, and Facebook.

The pause in ad placement lasted a little over three days. Then around day four, just as the passionate call for gun regulation expressed by the Parkman survivors unexpectedly and stunningly began to catch fire, the NRA not only resumed its digital advertising, the organization quadrupled its buys.

The Tribune found that, according to research done by a company called Pathmatics, which “scrapes data from online ads,” the NRA’s average daily spending on digital ads in the 24 days before Parkland was $11,300. Then in the 24 days after its blackout period, that daily average “jumped to $47,300.”

Furthermore, most of the increase, according to the Tribune, was on social media, particularly Facebook, where the spending jumped from “an average of $4,400 a day in the three weeks prior to Parkland to $34,000 a day in the three weeks after the four-day silence.”

That’s nearly eight times more than prior to the Parkland massacre.

Presumably, the NRA hopes to make sure the “issue intensity” scales continue to tip in its favor.

Yet, the students who have captured so much of the public’s imagination in the last few weeks, have also persuaded a healthy number of adults to up-their intensity quotient on the issue—at least for the moment.

Will it continue? Will it lead to concrete change? There is no one who can definitively answer that question. For this, we must all….stay tuned.

30 Comments

  • Having watched the videos I noticed the girls were pretty much just repeating platitudes albeit with plenty of emotion. (Enough is enough!) it may make good t.v. but not much awareness as far as public policy is concerned. They are after all just kids. Some seem to relish their new found celebrity, and why not? There are plenty of authority figures egging them on, people who have a very specific agenda and these kids are coming in mighty handy, at least for the moment.

    For another side to this you may want to check out Taylor Walker’s previous story, she actually included a different point of view on the causes of school shootings, instead of this type of same old same old.

  • I have no intention of taking my marching orders on anything from kids. Aren’t these speakers from the same age group of those thugs Celeste and her crew constantly defend as needing more rehab than hard time in lock down even for the most vicious crimes because their brains aren’t fully developed and their lack of impulse control? Correct me if I’m wrong on that. Nice of them to include the every day victims of gun violence in their matches but funny how Celeste didn’t talk about where those weapons most often come from, whose using them, their percentage of the gun violence in the country and why. Why the omission?

    • “Where are the weapons coming from?”
      They could very well come from sworn Police Officers. We only know of the Lieutenant from Pasadena P.D. or the two officers from Gardena P.D., imagine that. Add them to your stats before alluding to your typical narrative. Speaking of stats, what are the usual similarties for mass shooters in the U.S.?

      • Don’t forget about the 31 Glock pistols missing from Compton Vaults. They were not donated to charity.

  • ‘Aren’t these speakers from the same age group of those thugs…’

    Right, let’s just paint all these kids with one broad brush in your attempt to diminish them. Good luck with that.

  • Jim, check out Edna Chavez’s video. She definitely doesn’t belong with the other kids. Her story about her brother Ricardo getting shot is a typical din do nuffin, got shot for no reason, it’s all a mystery, musta been the gun that did it, screed. I thought she was going to start throwing up gang signs while she yelled LA SUR! Kinda hard core really

  • They are kids…the whole FACEBOOK fiasco is an example of what “adult kids” when left to their own devices and allowed to perform at levels far above their emotional maturity, and without the benefit of life experience.

    I agree with listening to what these kids have to say, but come on….does anyone think a high school student can really figure out, and put forth viable solutions to a complex, multi-faceted problem involving mental illness, gun ownership and violence?

    Let the adults in the room handle adult stuff I always say.

  • I would listen to what these kids had to say if they would actually list concrete actions. The screaming platitudes to the masses doesnt really work for me. When someone tells me we should ban “assault weapons” but cant tell me how an ar-15 is functionally different from a mini 14 “ranch rifle” I cant continue the conversation. When you call it an epidemic of gun violence even though gun crime is on a 30yr downward trajectory and knives kill more people . How do you justify your hysteria? How can I take high school kids seriously when california says that you must be 21 to buy cigarettes and you cant give a statement to police because the young brain isnt fully formed until well into the twenties? Surely these same kids would have no problem giving up the ability to vote until age 21 as well. I could go on…

  • Emma 4 Change admits to bullying the shooter and marches against guns. When is the left’s new princess going to march against bullying which she also said was deserved?
    So with all the warning signs they had about this guy she was one of the catalyst for his behavior? Is that possible?

  • Parent, Maj. Kong has seen kids shot, and perhaps even did some of the shooting, especially if they were brown or black kids. And, notice Maj Kong’s racist tendencies creeping out. When I see the young lady Edna Chavez, I see a young lady like most in South LA. Yet, he sees one that “doesn’t belong with the other kids,” meaning with the white kids, and was expecting her to start throwing gang signs. I’m sure he thinks every brown or black kid in the hood is in a gang, and he acts accordingly.

    Mr. Hitchcock, Sure Fire just trumped you. You can’t stump that wizard of the word, Sure Fire. He meant an “age group, not everyone in it.” His Trumpian language skills to great use. As they say in the hood, Moth#@*# say what? You think that is confusing, you should read his police reports.

    And, notice the wise Conspiracy saying these kids are too young to understand what they say, and to understand these complex issues. When it suits him. Yet, when study after study says they should not be tried as adults, he is ready to fry them in the electric chair because they are predators and know fully well what they do. What hypocrisy.

    Really, Really? be careful lest the LOE gangsters on this site jump on you. Glad you admit that crime is at a 30 year low. But, knifes kill more people?. Hell, cars kill more people. What is your point?

    • CF…your hitting the pipe again it would seem. The same old mantra of “black and brown” people being held down by “the man”. Did you know most brown people in the good old USA view themselves as “White people”, and don’t align themselves with the “Black people”. So get off this..it’s so tired and old.

      Oh..to compare these high school students to “criminals” is a what you said, not I. If you don’t see the difference between the Parkland shooter and these high school kids….well….you need to see your therapist ASAP.

      • @ Conspiracy, …. most Brown people in the good old USA view themselves as “White people”…… Really?

        I don’t know what bogus poll you gathered that lie from and for the few that do, white people will remind them through words and actions that they are “not white.”

    • My point is that the assault weapon issue is a non issue. If knives are used in more murders than rifles why is nobody banning knives? What makes a weapon an assault weapon?

  • Hey Reg/CF you phony p.o.s. let me get this straight. Study after study says they should not be tried as adults? Post those studies for me because being tried and facing the punishment of one are two different issues. If you believe they aren’t at the same level as adults with their reasoning abilities and understanding of complex issues, impulse control that leads them to commit heinous crimes, than I would assume you would be, as I knew a very gullible head up your ass type to follow their advice in the area of gun control or any other issue.
    Of course you say nothing about the bullying by Edna I mentioned, not a word do you because you’re nothing but a cowardly little cop hating racist. I’ll bet you were a bully as a kid, mostly White kids if you could find one right? You’re not fooling anyone, just a hate consumed punk that you’ll take with you to the grave.
    Hey Brother from Another, a “few” cops have gone bad for sure but be serious dude, your claim, and you know it is idiotic. Try doing a little research. How many “mass shootings” have there been in the last 35 years or so? Define mass shooting, people have different thoughts on it. If you’re going to open yourself up to a debate on this let’s set the parameters.

  • Cf/reg blah blah racist! blah blah, say whatever you want, but have you noticed the media has put the coverage of the anti gun kids on ice, kinda like black lives matter? Black lives matter helped give us Donald Trump, looks like the media wanted to shut this thing down before there was too much damage. Btw how many young ladies from “sur LA” do you know? Bet your career bogged down far from any way near there.

  • Jesus, gentlemen, do not get all bent out of shape. That is a lot of anger you gentlemen have.

    Conspiracy, it may be same old mantra, but it is the same ‘ol mantra you and yours espouse. Notice how Maj Kong was expecting gang signs. Why, because the girl is brown? Albeit, she may be able kick the crap of your spoiled kids, but she does not look like a gang member to me. Perhaps, Maj Kong is just an old redneck and you are different, but I doubt it. If I remember correctly he is retired, got out before they let too many “coloreds” on the force.

    Sure Fire – given what we know, the executive part of the brain is not fully developed until perhaps the early 20s. So, yes, I disagree, with you and your law and order cohorts that we should lock them up and throw away the key. Especially, when we have you and your ilk doing the arresting. I may not take a teenager’s advice about policy, but I do not think you should discount their opinions and words, especially when it affects them. More importantly, I think the big-gun, little-penis pro gun kooks, who cant spell “second amendment,” let alone know what it means, are plain crazy. I do not believe that that tooth missing, toe tapping, banjo playing red-white-and blue Americans will ever make up a militia. Like LEOs with over 10 years on the force, they can barely walk, let alone charge at the government with their AR-15s. Let us be real. Like our great former VP, Dick, you are more likely too accidentally shoot someone than a criminal. Remember Dorner? About 10 officers, scared shitless, shot at two Latina women, thinking they were big, black males, about 100 rounds, and could not even hit one of them. That’s reality. By the way, Dorner was apparently one of the few in the LAPD who could actually shoot.

    Maj. Kong, you are even kookier than I thought. The media “shut this thing down?” Be honest, do you get your news form this kook Alex Jones? And, why are you guys so hung up on this guy Reg? Is he black? Did he bully you or take your promotion? I would like to meet him.

  • And cf reverts back to the mean, his usual racial and sexual insults. Funny ,cf brings up Alex Jones as an obvious classist insult, the ironic thing is that Alex Jones types are more likely to feature a stories on the anti gun “kids” now than the main stream media. Like Obama before them, they have become the worlds best gun salesmen (and girls too).

  • Way past ten years on old man. Anytime you want to hit a range with me let me know Reg. That fake cop brother of yours can tag along, tell that story again poser. Your racist comments that Celeste allows day after day shows so much bias, unreal.

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