The politics of guns in America seems to be changing for the better.
The difference is not the latest gun massacre, which killed 17 students and teachers Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The difference is the public reaction inspired by the survivors of the shooting.
Teenagers demanding reasonable action to protect lives have galvanized a nation.
In less than two weeks, here is what that response has engendered:
• Multiple companies – including MetLife, Symantec, First National Bank of Omaha and Enterprise Holdings – have ended business relationships with the National Rifle Association, largely out of concerns that association with the group’s extreme positions on gun laws would tarnish their reputations and make them vulnerable to consumer boycotts.
• Groups promoting sensible gun laws – including Everytown for Gun Safety, which is supported by Bloomberg LP founder Michael Bloomberg – have drawn tens of thousands of new volunteers.
• President Donald Trump, who was elected with the help of $30 million in NRA political spending, has suggested that it might be necessary to raise the age limit for buying a firearm while also banning bump stocks and strengthening background checks on gun purchases. Follow-through always is a big question with this president, and getting Congress to act will be difficult. But the mood has shifted.
• Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, who has an A+ rating from the NRA and has signed some of the nation’s most extreme gun legislation, has announced a plan to increase funding for school security and mental health programs. In addition, he has proposed prohibiting the purchase or sale of bump stocks, raising the minimum age for firearms purchases to 21, and, following the lead of other states, allowing restraining orders to prevent firearm possession or purchases to be lodged against people who pose a threat of violence.
Guns will remain a polarizing issue in America for the foreseeable future. And the proposals now gaining a hearing, while significant, are far from comprehensive.
But the majority of the public favors sensible gun laws – expressing all but universal support, for example, for comprehensive background checks. With everyday Americans rallying for change, companies shunning the NRA, and gun lobby favorites such as Trump and Scott scrambling to respond to public pressure, the outline of a safer America is coming into view. It will take steady commitment and work to realize the vision.