Over the weekend, the March for Our Lives event featured gigantic rallies across the nation, including one in Washington, D.C., that drew several hundred thousand people— depending on estimates, perhaps the largest single rally there in American history. It was an inspiring demonstration of American citizens exercising their democratic liberties.
But it also badly triggered the hyper-sensitive snowflakes in conservative politics and media, who apparently need a safe space from political assemblies to petition the government for redress of grievances. They have been in continuous meltdown ever since.
Hypocrisy aside, it's a good indication of the political threat they perceive from the post-Parkland gun control movement. The long-term prospects for the extremist views of movement conservatives on gun regulation do not look good.
Let's roll the tape. At National Review, Rich Lowry wrote a post entitled "The Teenage Demagogues" operatically bemoaning how the "braying spirit of the student gun-control advocacy" is "making our public debate even more poisonous and less civil." Why? Because the teenagers (hyperbolically) suggest that the NRA is basically fine with clockwork massacres of schoolchildren, if the alternative is modest regulation of gun manufacturers or restrictions on gun purchases.National Review, Joe Bissonnette excused his attention to the "ingratitude, sanctimony, and profanity" of Parkland survivor David Hogg (who Erick Erickson previously called a "high school bully") by baldly asserting that "manipulative adults in the media are deploying him as a useful idiot."
At Red State, Sarah Rumpf briefly dipped into an Alex Jones-style conspiracy theory, twisting a bit of vague language into an absolutely crackpot argument that Hogg was not actually present at the massacre, before having to shamefacedly retract the entire article.
What explains these defamatory attacks on a bunch of children simply trying to stop their fellow students from being senselessly butchered? Many left-leaning writers have correctly noted that the Parkland students' sustained political attention has a lot to do with the wealth of the community. A great many massacres in poorer communities have gone without the weeks-long national outrage and mobilization that followed the Parkland shooting.
On one hand, it is of course unfair for political influence to be correlated with wealth (though I would argue that Parkland was also a tipping point phenomenon). But on the other, it shows the thinness of the political ledge onto which the maximalist gun rights brigade — which includes just about the entire Republican Party — has marched itself. Gun violence is not something restricted to poor rural trailer parks or urban ghettos. It's a regular occurrence in the most privileged communities in the land.
But as the GOP has become composed of characterological extremists, they have become all but incapable of negotiation or compromise. The Republican establishment is fervently convinced that any slight deviation from current party dogma is nothing less than the death knell of American freedom.
So when an incomprehensibly gruesome massacre strikes in a wealthy neighborhood, where the citizenry is meaningfully politically enfranchised, and it sparks a massive nationwide demonstration, Republicans are largely caught flat-footed. To be fair, President Trump did recently take a tiny but meaningful step, invoking executive authority to ban bump stocks like the one used in the Las Vegas massacre (though not in Parkland). But that is mostly just plugging a loophole in the already-existing automatic weapons ban, and will come under instant legal assault from conservatives. The legal question could be solved by legislation, but such a ban would go nowhere under this Republican Congress.
In the rest of the party, the best they can offer is stuff like what former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum proffered over the weekend: learn CPR instead of "looking to someone else to solve their problems."
For one thing, it's deeply telling that in reality, a hypothetical elementary school combat medic trying to save their homeroom classmates from grapefruit-sized high-velocity rifle wounds would be most concerned with staunching bleeding, not CPR. Conservatives can't even get their transparently bad faith deflection arguments right.
And that is why they are largely reduced to smearing and defaming a bunch of kids trying to participate in American democracy. It's the only political move they have left.
But more importantly, by refusing to accept even slight compromise in the gun debate, conservatives have made their position extremely brittle. After Parkland, public opinion has shifted fast in favor of commonsense regulations like universal background checks, a national gun registry, and reversing the ban on government-funded gun violence research. Meanwhile, fanatical anti-Democrat partisanship from the NRA is purging out the last vestiges of pro-gun sentiment from that party. If and when Republicans lose their grip on national power, new gun control measures are liable to go much further than they would have if the NRA and Republicans had accepted a tactical retreat.
It will serve them right.