Reprinted with permission from Creators.
Interesting how some conservative pundits, gun zealots and other cynics have tried to dismiss the activism of the teenage survivors of the Parkland, Florida, school shootings. It’s just a pit stop for these kids, they argue, on the way to the rest of their lives.
Even more interesting is just how wrong some pundits, gun zealots and other cynics can be.
On Tuesday evening, the CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods released a written statement to announce an earthquake of a change in inventory. By Wednesday morning, the announcement and CEO Edward Stack’s public comments about it were front and center of every version of our early-morning news alerts, from radio to the web.
Dick’s employees, Stack’s statement began, “are deeply disturbed and saddened by the tragic events in Parkland. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims and their loved ones.
“But thoughts and prayers are not enough.”
Addressing the students, he wrote: “We have heard you. The nation has heard you.”
After adding language acknowledging the Second Amendment and that “the vast majority of gun owners in this country are responsible, law-abiding citizens,” he got to the heart of the company’s collective sense of guilt:
“Following all of the rules and laws, we sold a shotgun to the (accused) Parkland shooter in November of 2017. It was not the gun, nor type of gun … used in the shooting. But it could have been.”
And with that, he announced that Dick’s would no longer sell assault-style rifles. They had already disappeared from Dick’s stores after the Sandy Hook massacre, he explained, but now they’re gone from 35 Field & Stream stores, too. Field & Stream is a subsidiary of Dick’s.
Stack also promised that his stores would no longer sell firearms to anyone younger than 21 or high-capacity magazines. And then he added a list of pleas to elected officials, including:
—Ban assault-style firearms, bump stocks and high-capacity magazines.
—Require universal background checks.
—Raise the minimum age to buy firearms to 21.
—Close the loophole that allows private sales and gun shows to avoid background checks.
This decision came on the heels of a growing list of companies — including United, Delta, Hertz, Budget, Avis and First National Bank of Omaha — announcing that they would no longer offer discounts to members of the National Rifle Association. I’m sure I’m not the only American who had no idea they ever did.
A high school in Batesville, Arkansas, canceled plans to raffle off an AR-15 rifle. “In light of recent events and in light of school safety, I would not endorse a gun as a fundraiser item,” principal David Campbell said.
Organizers of a sportsman’s show in suburban Chicago also decided not to raffle off or sell AR-15s or let vendors sell bump stocks or other devices that render semiautomatic weapons even faster.
Little by sometimes not so little, the wave grows.
“Why now?” many rightfully want to know. What took them so long? Why not after Columbine? After Sandy Hook? After the Pulse nightclub massacre? The Las Vegas concert massacre?
What if Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School hadn’t been a school full of white kids?
Those are all legitimate questions, and I would never suggest that now is not the time to ask them. I try to remind myself of what I’ve so often written over the years: We can’t ask people to change and then not give them the chance to. It’s not a satisfying answer to these questions thundering in my head, but it keeps my heart open.
On Wednesday, Dick’s Stack said this on CNN about the student survivors in Parkland:
“Those kids talk about ‘enough is enough.’ … We concluded that if these kids are brave enough to organize and do what they’re doing, then we should be brave enough to take this stand.”
Seeing as we’re talking about teenagers’ bravery, I’ll leave you with this New York Times update about 17-year-old Parkland survivor Maddy Wilford. She was shot three times and was so pale when police first found her they thought she might be dead.
On Monday, she walked with her parents into a conference room at Broward Health North hospital to thank doctors for saving her life.
“I’m just glad that I’m making a full recovery and everything’s been going so smoothly,” she said.
“It’s times like these,” she added, “when I know that we need to stick together.”
Thank God it helps as much as it hurts to hear these teenagers sounding so wise. Otherwise, how could we bear this?
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (firstname.lastname@example.org) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.