The recent massacre of 17 students and educators at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., has triggered a national debate over guns that will not be silenced by politicians under the thumb of the National Rifle Association.
Indeed, Republican President Donald Trump, who enjoyed solid support from the NRA and its members in the 2016 presidential election, said during a White House meeting with federal lawmakers that he will take on the politically powerful organization to get sensible national gun-control legislation enacted.
With Republicans in charge of the U.S. Senate and House, Trump’s leadership on this issue could spell the difference between success and failure.
The president is echoing the sentiments of a majority of Americans who believe something must be done to curb the mass shootings that have become commonplace in America.
The current debate also differs from previous ones because the loudest voices are coming from young people no longer willing to be seen and not heard.
Students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas who were on the scene during the massacre by a teenager armed with an AR-15 rifle will not let the memories of their relatives and friends fade. They also will not forget the heroism of adults who died trying to protect the young people.
There were three significant developments last week that suggest the winds of change are blowing in the right direction.
Dick’s makeS a bold move
“When we saw what the kids were going through and the grief of the parents and the kids who were killed in Parkland, we felt we needed to do something.”
So said Ed Stack, chairman and CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods, during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
The “something” that the leading sporting goods company based just outside of Pittsburgh did was to immediately stop selling assault-style rifles and to ban the sale of all guns to anyone under 21.
To say those actions have sent shockwaves through retail outlets that feature guns in their inventory would be an understatement.
Several major corporations, including MetLife, Hertz and Delta Airlines, have cut ties with the NRA since the Florida tragedy, but the Dick’s decision to end the sale of certain types of guns is significant.
Trump throws down the gauntlet
During his meeting Wednesday with members of Congress that was aired live on television, Trump departed from GOP political orthodoxy and called for comprehensive gun-control legislation to expand background checks to weapons purchased at gun shows and on the internet, according to the New York Times.
Trump also said guns must be kept out of the hands of mentally ill people, schools must be made secure, and restrictions must be placed on the sale of firearms to individuals.
According to the Times, Trump flatly insisted that legislation should raise the minimum age for buying rifles to 21 from 18 – an idea the NRA and many Republicans fiercely oppose.
Ohio Gov. Kasich weighs in
Also last week, Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich, who will leave office at the end of this year, proposed six measures designed to deal with the mass killings that are occurring with such regularity they no longer shock the senses.
The governor will seek legislation to take guns away from people at risk of hurting themselves or others, keep guns away from those convicted of domestic violence or subject to protection orders, close some gaps in the background-check system, strengthen the law against “straw man” gun purchases and ban bump stocks and armor-piercing ammunition, according to the Dayton Daily News.
“No one is interested in some slippery slope in trying to go and grab everyone’s guns,” Kasich said.
The bump-stocks prohibition is similar to what President Trump has proposed.
But while Ohio and other states are moving ahead with their own gun-control measures, all eyes are on Washington where Republicans on Capitol Hill are under pressure from the NRA not to rush to judgment over gun legislation.
GOP lawmakers and the gun lobby are particularly worried because President Trump suggested during the White House meeting that a conversation on an assault-weapons ban is timely.
Such a ban, which critics said was a watered down version of the original proposed, was enacted in 1994.
The ban expired in 2004 and was not renewed.