Count U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi among Americans who think there is something dramatically different – maybe even life-changing – in the aftermath of the latest in the long string of deadly mass shootings at our nation’s schools. This time, our children are the grown-ups in the debate over gun control and they are driving the discussion.
“I think this has the MeToo effect,” the California Democrat told me Monday during a visit to the newspaper with the editorial board and others. “You know how the MeToo movement just changed (how we talk about sexual) harassment?”
The massacre in Parkland, Fla., which killed 17 people at a high school there on Valentine’s Day isn’t fading from the headlines. That’s what usually happens after these mass slaughters. Our grief and outrage, our sound and fury, eventually give way to yawning silence and inaction. We’re frustrated nothing is done. Then the next mass shooting comes along.
But not this time. Not so far.
That’s because the young survivors from Parkland who witnessed their classmates and teachers die aren’t letting this story go away. They’ve struck a serve with Americans who are also fed up that Congress hasn’t taken up gun-control legislation. Don’t offer me your thoughts and prayers, the young students are imploring; do something instead.
“Oh, my God, what they’ve been through, turning their grief, their anger into something that will save lives,” Pelosi said Monday.
The students are channeling their anger into activism, taking it to the streets, planning marches and school walkouts in Austin and across the country, stepping up the pressure on President Trump and lawmakers to pass gun control laws, calling out those who take money from the National Rifle Association. They plan a national day of action against gun violence on April 20. On Monday, some students staged a “die-in” in front of the White House.
Pelosi said she understands the students’ frustration. “How many times do you hear, ‘Oh, now is not the time to talk about gun policy,’” she said.
Pelosi said gun control advocates in the House have the votes, including support from Republican co-sponsors, to pass measures today to prevent gun violence. “We would win the background check bill,” she said. There is House support as well, she said, for removing a prohibition on the Centers for Disease Control from studying gun violence prevention.
And there’s another thing lawmakers could do, Pelosi added. House Speaker Paul Ryan could convene a select committee to study gun control. He has not been bashful about calling committees on everything from Benghazi to planned parenthood, so why not gun control, she said.
“Now, should we have a ban on AK-47s, assault weapons and all of that? That’s part of a discussion, too,” Pelosi said. “Some people say absolutely, positively. Other people say let’s just get what we can before the NRA (weighs in.”
The young students who are the newest champions of gun control might not be afraid of a fight with the NRA. Some have called the contributions some lawmakers receive from the organization “blood money.”
Pelosi admires their courage and their tenacity.
“Your heart breaks for them and for what they’ve been through,” she said.