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Your Kid Is Part of the Gun Control Debate Whether You Like It or Not

Gun fanatics have grown increasingly desperate to preserve their fatalist cause in the wake of the Parkland shooting and amid the youth-led grassroots effort to challenge groups like the NRA. Their most depraved line of attack falsely holds that these kids belong to a league of “crisis actors” who fake massacres and protests, or, at the very least, are operating under the direction of liberal forces bent on repealing the Second Amendment. Because the pro-gun crowd cannot meaningfully answer students who point out that the right to own an AR-15 doesn’t outweigh their right to live, they have to discredit the movement as bogus political theater or the result of brainwashing.

If you want a sense of just how weak that argument is, look to the conservative parents of school-age children: they know this upswell is genuine, driven by the students themselves, and they’re so scared of it that they’re keeping their own kids home on the occasion of mass walkouts, lest the little ones be exposed to radical opinions like “maybe we shouldn’t give teachers guns” (teachers have been shooting a lot more lately) and “there should be universal background checks on gun purchases” (88 percent of Americans happen to think so). Panic drips from their frothing tweets.

You could spend the rest of the week breaking down everything stupid and self-defeating in this gesture, but let’s quickly get the basic points out of the way: For starters, Wednesday’s national walkout lasted all of 17 minutes, in memory of the 17 killed at Parkland. It’s rather less than effective to make your kid miss an entire day of their education because you think civil disobedience that clocks in well under the running time of a Family Feud episode is too disruptive for them. Then there’s the snag where you’re always screaming “BUT THE CONSTITUTION” yet clearly don’t trust the children you are raising(!) to responsibly exercise their right to free speech and assembly, which, as you may not have noticed, is listed directly before that whole “right to bear arms” bit. Most baffling, though, is the admission that you’ve enrolled your kid in a school system bristling with teachers and administrators whose main objective is to indoctrinate them against your worldview. Did you just…not care about that until now?

Digging below the surface-level idiocy here, you notice a pattern that ought to be familiar to anyone who was once a teen, yet always eludes these craven #MAGA chuds. Not only are they using their kids as political pawns while accusing the left of doing exactly that — they’re likely driving their sons and daughters to the other side of this debate. The youth define themselves in opposition to the authoritarian control exerted by their parents. They rebel on instinct. Remove them from the gun conversation and it will pique their curiosity more; ground them and they will spend the evening in their room scrolling through social media posts that show classmates condemning the dogma you have foisted upon them. You may constrain them in every way except for how they think, and when you do so, they will recognize your rabid defenses of “freedom” for the hypocritical, chicken-hearted, selfish bullshit they are.

These are not the words or actions of people confident that an argument for lax firearm regulations stands on its merits. If the necessity of total gun saturation were as manifestly obvious as they claim, it would easily weather a few hashtags and homemade signs. Instead this precious conclusion must be shielded from an “assault” orchestrated by the nefarious adults who, uh, teach your kids algebra? Those who haven’t procreated can still help by logging on to Twitter and praising fictional offspring for staying at their desks when mindless hordes of fellow adolescents opted to play truant. Even for a death-cult fringe, this is pathetic, but, like all their histrionics, it derives from fear. Each goon who rages that 17-year-olds are “too young” to understand the national climate, or the machinations of government — that they have no idea what they’re saying or doing — is grappling, consciously or not, with an electorate in which kids born the same year as Columbine are eligible to vote already. It’s too late for them to stop this wave, so they lash out at the Parkland organizers and attempt to censor reality for their own children, who are doubtless beginning to resent the blackout.

You can’t discount kids like Kyle Kashuv, the Parkland survivor who “vaulted to national prominence as a conservative counterweight” to classmates calling for gun control. The difference is that Kashuv was allowed to choose his path on the issue, just as David Hogg and Emma González are free to go after the gun lobby and politicians who take NRA money. I’m not a parent myself, but I’ve often heard that this self-determination is crucial, even if it means letting your son or daughter make a mistake. Otherwise, they’ve learned nothing — except that mom and dad see them as hopelessly gullible infants.