This children’s crusade against gun madness just might work

When survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High massacre went to the Florida state capital to protest lawmakers inaction on gun violence, one of the students summarized the situation well: “The leaders are acting like children and the children are acting like leaders.”

Indeed they are. The survivors of the shooting that left 17 dead at the Parkland, Fla., high school refused to accept the usual thoughts and prayers from lawmakers. They’re demanding action.

This time they may get it, because this time it’s not liberals and conservatives arguing, or grieving relatives pleading. This time it’s tomorrow’s victims – and tomorrow’s voters – saying something must be done today.

And this time they may get more than stonewalled by members of Congress who are indebted to the National Rifle Association. A ban on bump stocks is back on the table. The age for buying an assault rifle may increase. Background checks may be broadened. And these teens calling out the negligence of their elders may bring even bigger changes.

Cameron Kasky, a Marjory Stoneman, 17, a Douglas High junior, said Sunday: “My message for the people in office is: You’re either with us or against us. We are losing our lives while the adults are playing around.”

The Florida students’ response, their channeling of their fear and grief into action, has surprised a nation numb to mass shootings. And that reaction is spreading among students. A National School Walkout will be on March 14 and student-led march on Washington – March for Our Lives – is planned for March 24.

Students and teachers are no longer accepting their role as possible collateral damage to a wide-open interpretation of the Second Amendment. They know it’s wrong that lock-down drills have become as common as fire drills.

In the Triangle, some students have staged walkouts to protest their vulnerability. In Raleigh, high school students on Tuesday marched along Hillsborough Street to the state Legislative Building to demand change.

At the pre-march rally, several students spoke to the crowd about what they hoped would come from the latest school shooting.

“On Feb. 14, the world lost 17 innocent souls to what can only be described as a heinous act of destructive hate,” said Zainab Antepli, 17, a junior at Chapel Hill High School. “School shootings have unfortunately become something of a norm for many students throughout this nation. Every time we open the news there’s another picture of a dead child, a crying mother and policemen swarming the campus.”

“We say our condolences to families in a monotone voice because this is not the first time we have said these words,” Antepli continued. “These tragedies not only cause immeasurable amounts of pain but are a sharp violation of our most basic and fundamental right as human beings. Children are afraid to go to school, afraid to walk down their hallways, peering behind corners with that constant nag in the back of their minds, ‘Am I next.’ That sort of terror that seizes at your heart when you look at your parent’s face and wonder if that is the last time that you will see them.”

These are powerful and compelling words. We’ve heard such pleas before, but not from this direction, not from teens and children. This time, lawmakers might listen.