On Thursday, Time released its list of the 100 most influential people. On the list: the Parkland survivors. No, not all of them — don’t look for Kyle Kashuv or any other non-gun control fan on the list. Just five: Cameron Kasky, Jaclyn Corin, David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, and Alex Wind. Now, there’s no question that these teenagers have made national headlines for months. It’s also true, however, that support for gun control has declined markedly since the Parkland shooting, and that the extreme rhetoric expressed by some of the students has off-put otherwise sympathetic audiences.
In any case, Time truly demonstrated its bias with its choice of author for the profile: Barack Obama.
Obama, you’ll recall, was president of the United States. Under his administration, zero serious gun control got done, despite complete Democratic control of Congress for the first two years of his presidency. But now he’s back to help use these youngsters as proxies for his preferred politics.
America’s response to mass shootings has long followed a predictable pattern. We mourn. Offer thoughts and prayers. Speculate about the motives. And then—even as no developed country endures a homicide rate like ours, a difference explained largely by pervasive accessibility to guns; even as the majority of gun owners support commonsense reforms—the political debate spirals into acrimony and paralysis.
Obama’s wrong about our homicide rate differential being explained by the presence of guns in American society; London’s homicide rate recently surpassed that of New York, and there are many states in the United States that have European levels of homicide despite high gun ownership rates. And of course, the acrimony and paralysis this time have been worse than ever — and the media’s addiction to character assaults on advocates of the Second Amendment has been the chief reason for that acrimony. But Obama continues:
This time, something different is happening. This time, our children are calling us to account.
Ah yes, the children. This is the point of this profile: to use teenagers as shields against counter-argument. For if you question Obama, you’re truly questioning “our children.” Obama states:
The Parkland, Fla., students don’t have the kind of lobbyists or big budgets for attack ads that their opponents do. Most of them can’t even vote yet. But they have the power so often inherent in youth: to see the world anew; to reject the old constraints, outdated conventions and cowardice too often dressed up as wisdom. The power to insist that America can be better.
Actually, they have a tremendous amount of power, given to them by the media. They have the ex-president of the United States writing a profile about them, for example. They have the institutional support of major left-wing organizations, which helped organize the March for Our Lives. They have the neverending admiration and coverage of the press. Their power doesn’t lie in their youth. It lies in the fact that the media are willing to use their youth in order to disarm political opponents. Which Obama proceeds to do:
Seared by memories of seeing their friends murdered at a place they believed to be safe, these young leaders don’t intimidate easily. They see the NRA and its allies—whether mealymouthed politicians or mendacious commentators peddling conspiracy theories—as mere shills for those who make money selling weapons of war to whoever can pay. They’re as comfortable speaking truth to power as they are dismissive of platitudes and punditry. And they live to mobilize their peers.
This is truly incredible stuff. It’s incredible because it’s obvious that Obama — who mere paragraphs ago was complaining about “acrimony” in the gun debate — wants to characterize his political opponents as “mere shills.” But since he never had the balls to do it directly, and since he knew that it would be offputting politically, he never did it himself. Now he gets to nod along as kids say it. What bravery from the former president!
Obama gives the kids credit for changing law and public policy:
Already, they’ve had some success persuading statehouses and some of the biggest gun retailers to change. Now it gets harder. A Republican Congress remains unmoved. NRA scare tactics still sway much of the country. Progress will be slow and frustrating.
This ignores the fact that the only major legislation to pass has been pushed not by Kasky, Hogg, Gonzalez, Wind, and Corin, but by Kashuv, who met with legislators on both sides of the aisle to pursue actual policy changes rather than appearing on CNN to call political opponents child murderers. And Hogg’s latest attempts to push boycotts have been a dramatic failure as well. But the facts run counter to Obama’s self-serving hagiography:
But by bearing witness to carnage, by asking tough questions and demanding real answers, the Parkland students are shaking us out of our complacency. The NRA’s favored candidates are starting to fear they might lose. Law-abiding gun owners are starting to speak out. As these young leaders make common cause with African Americans and Latinos—the disproportionate victims of gun violence—and reach voting age, the possibilities of meaningful change will steadily grow. Our history is defined by the youthful push to make America more just, more compassionate, more equal under the law. This generation—of Parkland, of Dreamers, of Black Lives Matter—embraces that duty. If they make their elders uncomfortable, that’s how it should be. Our kids now show us what we’ve told them America is all about, even if we haven’t always believed it ourselves: that our future isn’t written for us, but by us.
Or, alternatively, this is just the latest gun control push by the Democrats and their allies in the media, as demonstrated by this profile. And it will fail, just like the others have, because the American public simply doesn’t buy the demonization of gun owners and gun ownership, even if advocates of that demonization hide behind teenagers.