Why Are You So Afraid? They're Our Children, for What It's Worth

Signs of the times at Phoenix's March for Our Lives
Signs of the times at Phoenix's March for Our Lives Joseph Flaherty
There's somethin’ happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware.
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.

That 1967 protest anthem by Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth,” seems as hauntingly relevant today as it did to my generation a half-century ago.

Saturday, hundreds of thousands of students and their supporters rallied for stricter gun laws. They were much better behaved than we were in the Sixties. There were no reports of arrests among the estimated 200,000 who gathered in the nation’s capital. Same thing among the 15,000 in Phoenix.

Yet they frighten many of you.

click to enlarge These two mocked the marchers.  And how about that proper display of the flag? - PATRICK BRYANT
These two mocked the marchers. And how about that proper display of the flag?
Patrick Bryant
One couple came to the the Phoenix rally packing sidearms and carrying a sign that said: "Last Week Tide Pods ... but This Week Gun Experts."

Colion Noir, a host for NRATV’s YouTube channel, addressed the Parkland survivors, saying "nobody would know your names" if their classmates were still alive.

Noir and others imply that the protests were all a plot by adults like George Soros, the media, and Democrats to use these students to weaken the nation. Because we liberal adults are always so effective at prompting teenagers to get out of bed and take action on a Saturday morning.

Others also told them they should be more concerned about bullying and texting while driving, and, perhaps the most ridiculous of all, Rick Santorum, that they should learn CPR.

But you should be very afraid of them, if change is what you fear.

They’re coming after you at the ballot box.

There were more than 800 of these rallies around the world Saturday; protests took place in 390 of the nation’s 435 congressional districts, according to the New York Times.

They weren’t preaching anarchy, they didn’t vow to overthrow the government like we did. They had a simple message.

“Just register to vote,” 17-year-old Jordan Harb, the co-founder of Phoenix March for Our Lives, told those gathered outside the State Capitol.

They are disgusted by the easy access to guns, which has made them helpless targets in their classrooms across the nation. They believe it makes no sense for anyone, much less an 18-year-old, to buy an AR-15 like the one that was used to kill 17 students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day.

They also want more demanding background checks. Why should it be easier to get a gun than it is to get a driver’s license?

I want these things, too. In fact, so do most Americans.

But experience tells me that it won't happen in this year’s elections. Maybe not by 2020, either. Not as long as the NRA has its hands so deep in the pockets of so many legislators. Not as long as politicians like Doug Ducey, Marco Rubio, Martha McSally, Paul Ryan, and so many, many more, fear the backlash from ardent Second Amendment supporters.

So what are we to do to protect our children?

For now, because I have four grandchildren, I’m siding with some sensible conservatives like my digital pen pal Dick from Sun City.

He wants armed officers in every school building, even though that wasn't so effective in Parkland.

“Is our distrust of law enforcement that deep?!” he asked in a recent email. “If it were not for a fearless armed resource officer (Deputy Blaine Gaskill in St. Mary’s County, Maryland) that most recent school shooting would have undoubtedly been worse. I sure do not have the answers but we must protect our children and trying to take away all guns, cars, vans, knives, etc. is just not sufficient let alone possible.”

I can buy that. I know a lot of my liberal friends will disagree. I know that many Hispanics fear that this would be an open invitation to deport students and their parents.  But what else are we going to do? Wait for the next Parkland, Sandy Hook, or Columbine to happen while we try to pass some respectable guns laws?

There’s just one catch.

Somebody’s got to pay for it.

Let’s do some journalist math, meaning I’m going to round things to even numbers. There are almost 400 schools in Phoenix. The average Phoenix police officer salary is around $50,000. Figure two officers per school. One wasn't enough at Florida.

That’s $40 million per year. Just in Phoenix. Now multiply that by thousands of school districts. (I’m aware many schools here have resource officers already, but I’m just trying to give you the potential scope of the expense.)

Dick says he would be willing pay higher taxes if it meant protecting our children. He acknowledges, however,  that “many of my damn neighbors” in Sun City would not.

And there are way too many places like Sun City in the country where children are no longer the residents’ top priority.

So where does that leave us?

With Emma Gonzalez, one of the Parkland survivors, on the podium Saturday at the March for Lives in Washington. She spoke briefly, then stood silent for the remainder of her approximately six minutes and 20 seconds on stage.

Six minutes and 20 seconds, she reminded us, is how long it took Nikolas Cruz to murder 17 people with his legally purchased AR-15.

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking' their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind.
It's time we stop,
Hey, what's that sound?
Everybody look what's going down.

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Stuart Warner was the editor of New Times from 2017 to 2019. He has been a journalist since the stoned ages of 1969, playing a major role on teams that won three Pulitzer Prizes. He is also the author of the biography JOCK: A Coach's Story.