After the March for Our Lives, the next milestone is a full political sea change

After the March for Our Lives, the next milestone is a full political sea change
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As recently as five years ago, the National Rifle Association (NRA) was among the strongest forces in Washington. Legislators from both parties feared the NRA — the fear was nearly universal. When legislators did vote out of line with the gun lobby, they did so quietly, cautiously. They would shy away from championing stronger gun laws or talking about gun violence prevention. And if they received a poor “grade” from the NRA, they certainly would not make it widely known.

Well, after March 24, it’s clear those days are over.

As millions of demonstrators across the country gathered at the March for Our Lives and sister marches, numerous politicians were seen wearing “F” pins on their lapels, touting their failing grades from an organization that once had a stranglehold on American politics.

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Watching marchers protest NRA-endorsed weak gun laws and the lives lost as a result, it is clear that we are witnessing a cultural change. This movement is not about passing one law or set of laws. It’s about the rejection of the NRA and their toxic, un-American values — once and for all and it’s happening before our eyes.

 

The unmasking and unraveling of the NRA has been a gradual process. Following the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, the gun violence prevention movement grew in size and began to expose the NRA for the extremist organization it had become.  

Now, student activists across the country, tired of seeing their friends shot at school, have begun to lead the movement to fully unmask the NRA. At the March for Our Lives, the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting wore price tags — they calculated the worth of each student’s life to their politicians in terms of NRA contributions. “I’m going to start off by putting this price tag right here as a reminder for you guys to know how much Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move Top Foreign Affairs Republican: 'It would benefit all of us' for Omar, Tlaib to visit Israel MORE took for every student’s life in Florida,” student and activist David Hogg said, slapping a price sticker on his chest reading $1.05.

We must follow the students’ lead. We must work with them as they weaken the NRA and by default, the politicians who bend to the organization’s will. Right now, our job is to continue exposing the NRA for the morally bankrupt organization it has become, showing members that the organization no longer represents them. It is our responsibility to point to their spokespeople, like board member Ted Nugent, who called the Parkland survivors “soulless” and “mushy-brained children.” It is our responsibility to delegitimize their reprehensible propaganda.

It is our responsibility to show the American people — gun owners and non-gun-owners alike — what the NRA is and what they really stand for. And in doing so, we will be advocating for the commonsense, evidence-based policies the NRA has long opposed: laws that remove guns from domestic abusers, suicide prevention laws, permit-to-purchase policies, and improved background check systems.

As the NRA’s true colors are exposed and their influence wanes in both the public and private sectors, our policy victories will mount. In recent weeks, we have seen businesses cut ties with the organization. We have seen former NRA allies like Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerFacebook users in lawsuit say company failed to warn them of known risks before 2018 breach New intel chief inherits host of challenges Overnight Defense: US, Russia tensions grow over nuclear arms | Highlights from Esper's Asia trip | Trump strikes neutral tone on Hong Kong protests | General orders ethics review of special forces MORE (D-Va.) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) walk away from the gun lobby and embrace stronger gun laws. We have seen “gun-friendly” states like Vermont demonstrate an appetite for common sense legislation.

We have even seen federal legislators ducking for cover by supporting moderate gestures on gun violence prevention policies. Though their support for these gestures indicates a significant change in the political climate, these measures must be fully realized to be effective. For instance, the omnibus funding bill signed late last month clarified that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can research gun violence, but unless Congress appropriates money for gun violence research, it’s not a significant change. We must demand that funding. Gestures are not enough.

Rather than dance around this administration’s regulatory authority to ban bump stocks, opening up years of litigation, our legislators should simply erase all ambiguity by doing their job and legislating. We need a true ban.

There are plenty of other commonsense policies to fight for — extreme risk laws, suicide prevention laws, domestic violence and violent misdemeanor laws — but if we are going to empower our legislators to pass those bipartisan policies, we must continue to show that the NRA has stepped outside the bounds of what voters are willing to tolerate. And they have.

The policies we care about — and the policies we reject — will follow if we install the proper leadership. We are in the midst of a full cultural overhaul, and our leaders must make a choice. The students and the people are heading one way; the NRA is headed the other. The choice has never been easier.


Josh Horwitz is the executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.