GUEST VIEW: The real test for Parkland’s young activists is when the media attention goes away

The following editorial was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

(TNS) Starting a movement, motivated by energy, anger and youth, isn’t that difficult. Keeping it going when momentum flags is harder. The young people from Parkland, Fla., and their supporters fighting for reasonable gun control must commit themselves for the long haul, understanding that it’s not going to be a battle lightly fought or easily won.

The student activists got a taste of that quickly when a smear campaign took root just as their movement was gaining national visibility. A YouTube user identifying himself as Mike M. cobbled together an old video news segment of movement leader David Hogg being interviewed on another matter and accused him of being a “crisis actor.”

Social media chatter questioning who’s behind the student movement continues to gain traction. The theme is that liberal forces are working behind the scenes to carry out their mission of repealing the Second Amendment. All this comes in the context of a well-documented Russian effort to divide Americans exactly by using such social media tactics.

Four days after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting rampage, some survivors banded together to name their movement Never Again. Their goal is to win approval for some common-sense gun regulations, including stricter background checks for gun owners. They called a nationwide protest for March 24.

This is nothing more than a group of students motivated by having watched friends and acquaintances get slaughtered by another teen wielding an assault rifle he never should have been allowed to possess. They are nobody’s puppets.

To their credit, the young activists seem undaunted by the social media attacks. Cameron Kasky, 17, laughed at the suggestion that he might be a crisis actor. “You should have seen me in ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ “ Kasky said. “Who the hell would pay me to act?”

The Parkland students are part of what has been tagged the “mass shooting generation.” They were born around the time of the 1999 Columbine High School attack in Colorado, in which 12 students and one teacher were killed, and have listened to the reverberations of mass shootings throughout their young lives.

They have reason to become activists and are not easily intimidated, even when the National Rifle Association bears down on them with its massive political machinery.

But they must know that the road ahead is arduous. The limelight will not always shine on them and their cause, no matter how righteous. They saw that last week when Republican legislators in Florida rejected their call for an assault-weapons ban.

When the media attention dies down and the nation’s attention wanes, that’s when their real dedication to the cause will show. It’s about garnering votes. It’s hard work, involving fundraising and door-to-door campaigning. That’s when real leadership and commitment is tested.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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