Parkland Survivors Are Shaping The Nation's Discourse On Gun Control

Wednesday will mark two weeks since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. While lives in the Parkland community have changed forever, not everyone is experiencing the same kind of change. As families continue to grieve for lost loved ones, and as several students recover from their emotional and physical wounds, other students – who may also still be going through the grieving process – have become activists and celebrities virtually overnight.

In a high school with more than 3,000 students, a select few are being thrust in front of the media’s cameras and booked for interviews because of the views they hold. As a result, they’ve been verified on Twitter and are gaining social media followers at a rapid rate. They’re using these platforms to slam politicians, the National Rifle Association (NRA), gun owners, and Second Amendment supporters. And while they place blame on virtually everyone but the shooter for the 17 deaths at their school, they, themselves, are being shielded from criticism.

The ages of the students vary, as some of these new, young activists are still kids. However, some of them are young adults and are of voting age. Their opinions and their votes can, and will, affect the direction of the nation, and their voices should be heard. But considering the students are still in high school, it puts many Americans who disagree with their rhetoric in a tough position.

Criticism of their views has already landed many on the political right in hot water. But if the students’ opinions are going to be heard in the public forum, there is no rule that their perspectives must go unchallenged. Political commentator and conservative Ben Shapiro rightly stated that survivors and witnesses of the Parkland shooting are either moral leaders who are stepping up to take responsibility where adults have failed, or they are merely victimized children whose perspectives cannot face criticism.

As mentioned earlier, several of the high school’s students are now verified on Twitter and are amassing hundreds of thousands of followers. One student, Emma González, has almost one million followers and is speeding past NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch’s following. David Hogg, another student at the school, is appearing on television sets across the country as political commentators ask for his opinions on gun control, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel’s leadership, Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s actions following the shooting, and Loesch. González and two other students from her school, Jaclyn Corin and Cameron Kasky, were even guests on Ellen DeGeneres’ show to talk about their upcoming march in Washington, D.C.

During CNN’s town hall where Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Rep. Ted Deutch (FL-22) took questions from students, teachers, and those who lost loved ones in the tragedy, Cameron Kasky, one of Ellen’s guests, told Sen. Rubio that when he looks at him, it is as if he is staring down the barrel of an AR-15 at the school shooter. This disgusting rhetoric is the strategy that several of these individuals are employing. Many have questioned whether or not Dana Loesch cares about the safety of children. Their activism appears to be more about demonization and forcing people and companies to bow to their gun control agenda. Hogg, for example, is actively calling for people to boycott companies that work alongside the NRA.

Due to their celebrity status, the students’ activism does not always stay in the realm of gun control. Their reach is already starting to extend far beyond it.

If the mainstream media is going to continue to give these young activists face time, they need to understand that they are opening these students up to public scrutiny. What other media outlets can and should do is give a voice to those who have been affected by the shooting but have a different perspective from those who have now reached instant fame.

Breaking from networks like CNN and ABC, Fox News interviewed a student who may find himself in the media spotlight shortly. The student, Kyle Kashuv, was asked about his opinion on the aftermath of the school shooting, the Broward County Sheriff’s lack of leadership, and how he feels about his fellow students pushing the gun control agenda. Kashuv’s perspective differs greatly from that of his peers.

As a majority of the victims use their First Amendment right to push for liberal gun control policies, conservatives need to be smart when it comes to critiquing their viewpoints. Some political commentators have made mistakes when it comes to analyzing and picking apart these students’ arguments. Disgustingly, an outlet and individual who will not be named pushed a conspiracy theory that these students were “crisis actors.” Others on the pro-gun right are wording their disagreement in ways that shut down the discussion just as much as rhetoric about banning AR-15s and the NRA and Republicans having blood on their hands does. Some have wrongly called for the students to simply shut up.

Thankfully, others on the right are giving well-reasoned critiques. Below are just a few examples of conservatives and Second Amendment supporters effectively countering the media’s gun control narrative and countering points made by the students and the left.

Facts will always win out.

As students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas return to school this week, it’s hard to imagine they’ll be going back to a productive learning environment. All of them will be experiencing various emotions. Many will be talking to counselors, others will be sharing their memories about students who have passed away, and others will be discussing their fellow students’ newfound nationwide notoriety. The hope is that despite their political differences, these students will return to a school that will be free of political conflict. But it appears that wish may not become a reality as students are already pushing back against one another’s comments.

The way the media has covered this horrific tragedy has done more harm than good. Unlike previous mass shootings, the attack in Parkland, Florida is not fading from memory, as it shouldn’t. But this national discussion should be truly open and unite the American people rather than deepening the existing divide between us.