The Parkland Teenagers Are Successfully Changing The Gun Debate

parkland teenager Cameron Kasky and Florida Senator Marco Rubio

Teenage survivors of last week’s school shooting in Florida are lambasting Republican lawmakers’ on gun control like no one before them—and they are getting results.

On Wednesday night, at a town hall hosted by CNN, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, students came face-to-face with Republican Senator Marco Rubio who has voted in lockstep with the NRA throughout his seven-years in Congress.

Junior Cameron Kasky pressured Rubio to change his stance on guns after the massacre of 17 of his high school classmates. Cameron wanted to know whether Rubio would “accept a single donation from the NRA” in the future.

Rubio ducked the question, saying instead that the NRA “buys into my agenda, I don’t buy into theirs.” The crowd of 7,000 students and community members exploded with boos and jeers.

But then, as the tense debate wore on, Rubio began to change his position before the crowd’s eyes.  By the end of his segment, he had publicly broken with President Donald Trump on whether to require teachers to be armed. The Senator declared he was in favor of raising the minimum age to purchase an assault rifle from 18 to 21. And he said he would think about restricting the size of firearm magazines.

Rubio did not, however, agree to stop accepting money from the NRA. Nor would he support an outright ban on assault rifles.

But, the high schooler had gotten Rubio to move in important ways on gun control, which in itself was a victory.

Innocence is unassailable

What the Parkland teenagers have going for them is innocence.

Gun-rights advocates have charged that the kids are being coached by their liberal parents, but these outlandish claims have already backfired. A conspiracy video alleging that one survivor, 17-year-old David Hogg, is a paid actor only served to increase support for the kids.

And the traditional forms of millennial-bashing are making adults look like tyrants. That was the case with conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza‏, who tweeted “Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs” after Florida lawmakers voted down a bill to ban assault weapons which the teenagers had rallied against.

But the media-savvy NRA knows it would destroy itself by firing back at these children. For this reason, Wayne LaPierre, the NRA chief executive, took aim instead at the media coverage of the shooting in his remarks on Thursday at CPAC.

Still, the teenagers show no sign of turning down the heat on their cause. And if they can make this much headway on changing the national conversation in just one week, more victories may indeed lay ahead.