Op-Ed: Democrats need to ignore the conspiracies and make gun control their issue

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is still creating waves, and that’s a good thing. Prior to Parkland’s mass shooting on Feb. 14, it felt like Americans were desensitized to mass shootings and school shootings.

A shooting would happen, politicians would provide their thoughts and prayers, and there would be online outrage. Give it 24 hours and people would move on. It was a process; a circular upset in the usual media cycle and lives of millions of Americans. Parkland, however, seems to have broken that process.

Politicians aren’t exactly sure how to explore this new territory. Students across the nation, from Broward County in South Florida to high schools in Texas, are protesting almost daily and walking out of classes. They are destroying NRA-funded politicians, coming for any sign or smell of blood. They are calling out the Florida state lawmakers who did not pass a bill on Tuesday that would ban the sale of assault weapons in the aftermath of Douglas. They are speaking on CNNCBS and ABC, often providing more eloquent answers than many of the adults usually seen on these outlets. It’s a reckoning of all sorts.

With this uplift comes backlash, but not in the usual way. This backlash isn’t as much about fear over losing guns. It’s senseless backlash against Douglas students, calling them “actors” working for anti-gun groups who travel around the country to the sites of mass shootings.

David Hogg, a survivor of the Douglas shooting, has become a strong voice for change. As well, he has received criticism for his father’s connections to the FBI, specifically that his father coached Hogg to speak out against Trump. These criticisms are being taken seriously. For example, Donald Trump Jr. liked a tweet on Tuesday that suggested that the mainstream media was lying about Hogg and his motives. Benjamin Kelly, an aide to Florida Representative Shawn Harrison, emailed the Tampa Bay Times suggesting that some of the Douglas students travel to different incidents as crisis actors.

Twitter seems to be the platform for not only attacking these students but also questioning the media’s presentation of them. Bill O’Reilly asked, “Should the media be promoting opinions by teenagers who are in an emotional state and facing extreme peer pressure in some cases?” in a tweet on Tuesday.

These personal attacks are absolutely deplorable. Their goal seems to be to disregard the progress these students are making, and that goal won’t be accomplished. If anything, the attacks showcase the need for voters, activists and especially Democrats to back these students and help keep this issue and their voices in the limelight. The idea that these students are crisis actors need to be ignored.

There can be no assumption that voters see these issues and the lack of progress the Republican Party is making. There can be no assumption that people will flock to Democrats in 2020 and push gun control. Instead, this issue and these students must continue to talk about gun control and call out NRA-funded politicians and groups.

Democrats need to step up to the plate with this issue. Gun control needs to be the heaviest topic for the party up and down the ballot in the 2018 midterms. With Republican donors funneling enormous amounts of money into this midterm season, Democrats need to organize, find a leader and drown the media with discussions and opinions on gun control. Right now, that doesn’t seem to be happening.