At long last, I’m convinced that this country is going to do an about-face on gun laws thanks to the fury of the student survivors of last Wednesday’s Parkland, Fla., school shooting. “We call BS!” repeated Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, as she listed the usual arguments against change at a gun-control rally three days after the massacre,
Emma is right to call out the bullshit. The fatalism that otherwise intelligent people have shown regarding the NRA is illogical. Yes, the NRA makes a lot of noise and throws around a lot of money, but it still represents a minority of people. As I wrote in 2016, a Harvard/Northeastern study obtained by obtained by the Guardian and the Trace showed that only 22% of American adults own guns (and not all of them are members of the NRA.) And get this: Just 3% of Americans own half the nation’s firearms. These “super-owners” have an average of 17 guns each. In other words, the truly diehard gun nuts are a tiny part of the American population population. Why did the 78% of us who don’t own guns start to believe the NRA is invincible? Once you start thinking someone else has all the power … well, that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, as Alec MacGillis of ProPublica explained in this story.
The 1960s protests against the Vietnam war were fueled by college students, which makes sense, because they were the ones who were the right age to be drafted (if they were men) or have loved ones drafted (if they were women). Now, it makes sense that the most meaningful gun protests in years are being led by high-school students who were born after the 1999 Columbine school shooting. They’ve gone through active-shooter drills all their lives, and still, one young man — wielding a weapon designed for the sole purpose of killing people — was able to kill 17 of their classmates and teachers in a matter of minutes.
Student-led organizations are currently working on two major protest events. The March for Our Lives will take place on March 24 in D.C. and sister cities. A separate school walkout is planned for April 20, which is the 19th anniversary of Columbine. (The original Women’s March organizers are planning an event on March 14, but I prefer to focus on the student-led actions.) Smaller protests are already taking place. Today, there was a die-in in front of the White House. In Florida, hundreds of students walked out of school and marched to Parkland. I hope that actions like this will escalate into a total disruption of the school system long before March 24. My dream is to see a massive, long-running protest during which students across the country would go to school like usual every day … but sit outside the school buildings. What could anyone do to them? You can’t fail every high school student in the country. It would be a very bad look to call in the National Guard à la Kent State in 1970 or a militarized police force to force kids into the school. (I have no doubt someone will try that, but any kind of threat will only increase sympathy for the kids.)
I’m ready to sit outside with a bunch of students — rain, cold, heat, who cares? If I can stand 10 hours at a music festival, a school day is nothing. Until then, I’m keeping myself busy with other actions, and I recommend you do so too. Here are three jobs for you.
- Your first task is to use ResistBot. I’ve already sung the praises of ResistBot (text “RESIST” to 50409 and let the bot walk you through contacting your elected officials), and I hope you’ve used it at least once. Use it now. I mean, literally right now, because ResistBot is available 24/7 and it’s fun and it’s going to take you fewer than five minutes. First, if you don’t know your senators’, representative’s, and governor’s stance of guns, do a quick Poodle search so you know what the heck you’re talking about. If your elected officials are pro-gun, you can text “NRA” to ResistBot at the same 50409 and you’ll find out how much money those fuckers got from the NRA. Adjust your message accordingly. If your officials are strongly anti-gun, you need to be a little creative. For instance, I texted New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand about the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which they’ve both strongly condemned. This bill– which passed the House last year and will be taken up by the Senate this year — would force states to recognize other states’ standards governing the possession of concealed firearms in public. That means people from concealed-carry states would be free to carry their weapons in New York. I thanked them for their stance against this shitshow of a bill … then I asked them to hold televised town halls in New York City that would feature young people speaking out about gun violence.
- Send a worthless check to your local NRA-purchased official. If your elected officials are not in the pocket of the NRA, send your worthless check to Florida senator and former presidential candidate Marco Rubio. Why Rubio? Because Parkland is in Florida and Rubio has already claimed gun laws wouldn’t have prevented the murder of 17 people. That’s no surprise because Rubio accepted money from the NRA, which gives him an A+ rating. Let’s see how Rubio (or your own senator/representative/governor) likes getting the thoughts and prayers that politicians are so eager to send to victims of mass shootings. (I wish I could say I thought of this, but I did not. I saw a couple of different versions of this floating around on Twitter, and I took the instructions specifically from this person.) Here’s what you do for the Rubio version. Adjust as needed if you’re sending your check to someone else.
- Get out your checkbook.
- Black out your account and routing info.
- Pay to the order of Marco Rubio.
- Fill in amount as “Thoughts & Prayers”
- Write “campaign contribution” in the memo line.
- Write a note that says: “Since you think that this is the solution to mass murder, please accept my contribution.”
- Mail it to Sen. Marco Rubio, 8669 NW 36th Street, Suite 110, Doral, FL 33166. (You can use any of his office addresses, but I picked one close to Parkland.)
- Make sure you and everyone you know is registered to vote. Voting is the most basic form of activism, and, at the same time, the most important. Remember that local elections are as urgent as presidential elections; those national politicians have to start somewhere. Share gun-control advocacy group Everytown’s TurboVote link by email, on Facebook, on Twitter, and any other social media you use to help people get registered. While you’re sharing things, mention ResistBot too (text “RESIST” to 50409) so your friends can drunk-text their senators like I do. Note: Drunkenness is not a requirement, just an option. My sober friends have had a good time with ResistBot too.
These actions can all be done this week with the tiniest amount of effort. You don’t have to go anywhere special to do them. The worthless check can be handled at home or the office. ResistBot and sharing TurboVote can be done anywhere: On the train, at the dog run, while watching television, at the gym, in line for anything, during a cigarette break … wherever, whenever! I don’t even care what your motivation is. It doesn’t have to be pure: Go ahead and use ResistBot when you’re not supposed to be on your phone but you’re desperate to take a peek at it. Like, if you’re on a blind date that’s not going well, you can say, “Excuse me, I have great inspiration for a ResistBot note and I simply must do it before I forget.” If you explain ResistBot to your date as you go through the steps and get that person excited about using it — especially if you get that person to use it RIGHT THEN — you have my permission to check your email/Twitter/Instagram/Tinder. Just don’t live tweet your bad-date strategy. That could get awkward!