E. Scott Cracraft - Cowardly lions

  • Published in Columns

As a kid, one of this writer’s favorite movies and books was the “Wizard of Oz.” If one studies the history of the novel/film, one finds it was intended as a populist/socialist fable with a great deal of socio-political symbolism. With the current debate on guns, one character stands out: The Cowardly Lion.

The Cowardly Lion was meant to be symbolic of the cowardly politician, the official who roars a lot and knows what needs to be done but does not have the guts to do it. It seems that we have a lot of Cowardly Lions when it comes to passing sane, responsible gun legislation.

Like the lion in the film, many, if not most, of our leaders are not cowardly women and men at heart. Many are brave and just need a little courage. They only became cowardly because they are “in bed” with the gun lobby.

Finally, it seems, America’s young people have had enough. They are sick of school gun violence because they know they could very well be the next target. The proverbial last straw was when a young man in Florida with ties to a white supremacist and anti-Semitic organization killed 17 people and wounded several others.

High school students are fed up and have launched a nationwide movement to accomplish what our Cowardly Lions have been unable to accomplish. They are staging school walkouts, demanding appointments with elected officials, and organizing a protest march in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, March 24 as well as local demonstrations in many states.

They are also organizing a boycott of firms that do business with the NRA So far, seems to working: company after company are cutting their ties with the NRA. Perhaps these businesses don’t care about gun violence but, being good capitalists, they realize that these kids are their future customers.

Almost as soon as the tragedy in Florida hit the news, right-wing conspiracy theorists dreamed up the lie that these teenagers could not have organized a movement without help and funding from Democrats or whoever who “put them up to it.” This almost sounds like an old-time Southern segregationist whining: “our black people were happy until those damn Yankee commie agitators came down here and stirred ‘em up!”

Not only is this a blatant lie, it is also insulting to these teens, some of whom have receive cowardly death threats. But these kids are brave. Teenagers are smart and they are much smarter in technology and online networking than many of us “older folks.” Gone are the days where you had to pass out fliers and hope the local progressive radio station would announce your protest! Moreover, a study of history shows that students (including high school students) participated in the Civil Rights movement, gained free speech rights for students, and helped end a war. In other countries, student movements have brought governments to their knees!

Are there college students and adults who are actively supporting this movement? Absolutely. This writer is one of them. We adults can support these kids without co-opting their energy and initiative. Those of us old enough to vote should listen and pledge to not elect officials who are in the pocket of the NRA. We can also honor the boycott.

The NRA portrays itself as an organization that promotes safe, responsible gun ownership and sportspersonship. Perhaps that is what the organization was in the past. Over the last couple of decades, however, the organization’s leadership has been extreme and irresponsible.

Many, if not most, NRA members are very responsible gun owners and this writer has several friends who belong. Surveys show that at least 60 percent of the rank-in-file members of the NRA oppose the sale of assault rifles. Perhaps responsible NRA members could support these students by resigning from the NRA or at least forcing a change its current extreme leadership?

These kids are doing what our Cowardly Lions won’t do. The best solution that these politicians can devise is to arm teachers. Are they crazy? A person may shoot a perfect score on a target range but in a real firefight, when all hell is breaking loose, only a minority of highly trained police officers hit their target.

So, teachers, who are already underpaid, overworked, and underappreciated are supposed to add “security guard” to their list of responsibilities? And what if the teacher holding a gun during a shooting to protect his or her students is a person of color. Of course, these politicians know that arming educators will only boost gun sales for their corporate patrons.

The NRA, the gun manufacturers, and the politicians who prostitute themselves to these powerful and dangerous interest groups are the proper target for these protests. As some writers to The Sun have pointed out, the problem with gun violence is complex. It is a cultural problem. We are a violent, “cowboy” culture where many people think that what might have been applicable on a rural frontier is still applicable to today in our modern, “civilized,” urbanized society. In fact, among the developed democratic nations, we are the most violent and we tolerate, normalize, and even celebrate violence in word and deed. Foreign tourists often take the USA off their “bucket list” for a vacation because of this culture.

This, of course, needs to change but cultural change takes time. For now, the immediate problem IS widespread access to guns. Indeed, there are sane, responsible, and law-abiding gun owners who use their firearms to hunt or other sports. But, no one needs a 357 magnum or AK-47 to go hunting. Handguns and assault weapons are designed for only one purpose: to kill or maim another human being. Access to these weapons by civilians should be severely restricted.

Of course, the spokespersons for the gun lobby whine: “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” Perhaps this is true, but the answer to is to make the penalties for even possessing an illegal or unregistered gun a serious felony offense punishable by stiff fines and mandatory prison time. This may not deter every criminal but it should deter many who might think twice about possessing an illegal weapon.

Finally, Kudos to these teens who are taking up this righteous cause. Perhaps your bravery will inspire some courage in our Cowardly Lions. This “old guy” will cheer and support you in any way he is able!

 Scott Cracraft is a citizen, a taxpayer, a veteran, and a resident of Gilford.