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Pitts: Parkland’s kids demand change

You need to grow up.

As far as I know, no survivor of last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., has used those words to challenge conservatives who have created a world where mass shootings are almost literally an everyday thing. But the sentiment is clearly there.

Consider David Hogg, a 17-year-old student journalist who expressed frustration with lawmakers in an interview on CNN: “We’re children,” he said. “You guys are the adults.”

Consider Cameron Kasky, a 17-year-old junior, who told CNN, “My message for the people in office is: You’re either with us or against us. We are losing our lives while the adults are playing around.”

Consider Emma Gonzalez, an 18-year-old senior who addressed a rally in Fort Lauderdale: “To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA,” she cried, “shame on you. … Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have ever been done to prevent this, we call B.S.!”

And consider what happened when Donald Trump tried to spin this mass murder into a screed against the FBI for probing his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia. A young lady named Morgan Williams took to Twitter to carve him an orifice the Almighty never intended.

“Oh my god. 17 OF MY CLASSMATES AND FRIENDS ARE GONE AND YOU HAVE THE AUDACITY TO MAKE THIS ABOUT RUSSIA???!!! HAVE A DAMN HEART. You can keep all your fake and meaningless ‘thoughts and prayers.’ ”

Students have called a rally—“The March For Our Lives”—for the 24th of next month on the National Mall. And is it too much to hope that maybe we are finally feeling the ground shift beneath our feet?

I can’t tell you how proud I am of these young people. Or how thankful I am for them.

When the shooting happened, I begged my editor not to ask me to write about it because I could think of nothing to say I haven’t already said a dozen times. My tank on this topic was empty.

Yes, what happened was terrible. It was also terribly old.

But let me tell you one of the best things about kids: it’s never old to them. When you reach a certain age, you have a longer personal context through which to view the crimes, sins and absurdities of humankind. When you haven’t graduated high school yet, you essentially have only now.

Context is a good thing. It can provide valuable perspective. But it can also make you jaded and weary, convince you that crying out is futile because nothing’s going to change.

But if you have only now, if crimes, sins and absurdities are visceral and new to you, you confront them with a fervor, energy and anger often inaccessible to your elders. You don’t yet realize that change is impossible. And so, sometimes, you create change.

That’s the hope that emerges from this tragedy.

And someday, when America is sane, when future generations wonder how it ever was we protected guns more than we did children, or that a disturbed 19-year-old was able to legally purchase a weapon of war, or that carnage became routine, or that some of us said this routine carnage was the price of freedom, maybe we will look back on this as the pivot point. Trump, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and every other politician who accepts money soaked in blood from the extremist NRA should consider themselves on notice:

You are being called out by America’s children. They have a simple message. Act like adults. Grow the hell up.

That’s more than many of their friends will ever have the chance to do.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Reach him at lpitts@

Your Views: Who are gun advocates kidding? Guns are the problem

I own guns, a couple of them, both single shotguns. I think hunting is OK. I’m not a routine hunter myself, but like most people, I recognize that hunting is a positive family activity for many families.

Here is what I do not understand: Every time we have a mass killing, gun advocates wring their hands and say, “It’s not guns that kill people. It’s people who kill people.” Fifty years ago, we had mentally unstable people and those people sometimes killed people. Today, we still have mentally unstable people, and sometimes those people kill people, too. But today they don’t kill one or two; they take an assault rifle, and, in Las Vegas the shooting, kill or wound 500 people in 10 minutes. What is different about these two situations? It’s the guns.

We are not talking about some family friendly activity of taking your son our deer hunting. I fail to understand the logic of allowing ordinary citizens to own high-powered military assault rifles with high-capacity magazines. I think we all know these weapons are not designed to be used to hunt deer with your kids on some family vacation. These weapons are designed to kill large numbers of people.

I’m just tired of gun advocates, the NRA and others with vested interests in arming our citizens like they are a military unit. Mentally unstable people 50 years ago might have killed someone, but today those same kind of mentally unstable people have weapons to kill tens or hundreds in a few minutes. The difference is “pure and simple”--it’s the guns.



Our Views: Districts should focus on educating, not marketing

Under a new superintendent, the Janesville School District has abandoned a marketing campaign to increase open enrollment numbers. That’s a wise move.

The district made a mistake last year in hiring a Madison firm to try to persuade parents living outside the district to send their kids to Janesville schools. There’s nothing wrong with touting district accomplishments, but doing so with the explicit goal of luring students from other districts is a zero-sum game. If Janesville wins, other districts lose, and the region as a whole is no better off.

School administrators are, of course, happy to receive students from neighboring districts because these students each bring roughly $6,750 in state aid, but most administrators refrain from declaring their districts are coming for their neighbors’ students. Cooperation among area districts—such as between Janesville and Milton—is already lacking, and a marketing war would likely drive the sides farther apart.

A marketing war wouldn’t necessarily enrich school districts but would certainly fill the coffers of marketing firms. Last year, Janesville shelled out $10,000 to the Madison firm Go2 Guy Communications. Furthermore, districts would struggle to objectively measure whether their marketing efforts yielded results or whether other factors caused fluctuations in open enrollment numbers.

Janesville’s declining enrollment is a problem, but the way to fix it is through providing the best education possible. Word will spread among parents and educators once Janesville schools operate as premier learning institutions.

To that end, Superintendent Steve Pophal has outlined some ambitious goals, or promises as he prefers to call them. Keeping these promises would do more to sell the school district than anything a marketing campaign could accomplish.

Pophal seems aware of the folly in focusing on open enrollment, and the district’s five-year plan adopted in October makes no mention of increasing open-enrollment levels.

It’s important not to panic about Janesville’s overall enrollment decline, amounting to less than 1 percent this year. Enrollment has steadily slipped since 2014, but the situation is far from bleak. District officials expect a recent rebound in birthrates will soon translate into a larger enrollment in elementary grades.

Perhaps a better way to gauge whether the district is succeeding is to examine the percentage of students within the Janesville School District who opt for private education, either at home or through a school.

Forget about trying to attract students from outside the district. What about the hundreds of students within the Janesville School District who don’t attend public schools?

If a growing number of parents choose private over public education, that would be a sign the district is failing. But if the Janesville School District can win over these parents and enroll their kids in public schools, that would be proof the district is delivering results.

Sound Off for Wednesday, Feb. 21

On gun control and the NRA: Nikolas Cruz may have pulled the trigger of the gun, but the NRA put the gun in his hands.

  • Guns aren’t the problem. There are 300 million of all kinds floating around the country, and an infinitesimal fraction are used by people to hurt other people. But there has to be something going on in our society that has caused angry, evil or mentally disturbed young men to plan and carry out these rare mass shootings. Is it because of social media? Violent video games? Bullying in schools? Broken families? Anti-depressant drugs? All of the above or something else? Whatever the cause, we need to sit down as a country and figure out how we can identify, help or stop crazy or violent individuals before they carry out their deadly attacks.
  • As a Marine, I used an M-1 rifle. As a hunter, I have used bolt action and limited-clip rifles. As a sportsman, I have used a variety of guns at the range, excluding AR-15s or AK-47s. For those who have a need to use the latter two types, let’s restrict such to range-only rental access. Shoot them, leave them. They are not needed for home defense or personal safety.
  • In the Feb. 12 cartoon (Page 4A), the politician sells his soul to the devil. The amount not shown is for $171,977. Some have called House Speaker Paul Ryan a coward. He is not a coward. He’s an agent of the gun rights lobby, who gave his last campaign $171,977.
  • With the recent school shooting, you’re hearing that the NRA has bought Washington with all of its money. It’s not the NRA that is buying Washington; it’s their voting block that is their real strength, ordinary Americans like you and me who will vote to protect our gun rights.
  • I am so proud of the teens in Parkland, Florida, for turning their grief and anger into action by starting a movement called March For Our Lives. Our government has failed them by making no changes as to all of the defenseless shootings. They want legislators to stop accepting the huge contributions the NRA makes. They want background checks before gun purchases, bump stocks and semi-automatic rifles to be banned and screening and treatment for the mentally ill. Let’s help these kids force changes to occur.
  • Wayne LaPierre, head of the NRA, owns the Republican Party in the United States. Change that, and you may get effective gun control laws passed in this country to reduce the amount of innocent victims slaughtered.

On the FBI: If the FBI protected our children as well as they do the Clintons, there would be 17 more kids alive in Florida right now.

On Sunday story, “A movement in motion” (Page 1A): I find the front page article in The Sunday Gazette on the #MeToo movement disgusting. Are these women bragging or complaining? Abuse is one thing. Whining and poor-me is infantile behavior. It’s time to face reality and grow up before no one can even speak to another person anymore for fear of being accused of harassment.

On a military parade: A Feb. 14 Sound Off caller was upset that liberals were critical of Trump wanting a big and outrageously expensive military parade and guaranteed that if Obama, Clinton or Biden had suggested a parade, they would be all for it. Well, they did not suggest it because it is a stupid idea. We’re not North Korea, not yet.

On concerns about voter suppression: Wisconsin offers a state identification card for free. Federal elections take place every two years. If a person can’t get to the DMV within two years to get a free ID card, that’s not voter suppression. That’s simply laziness.

On voter turnout: As a veteran, I’m extremely disappointed with the Tuesday voter turnout. With critical issues like voter ID, gerrymandering and shenanigans surrounding the John Doe probe, the makeup of our state Supreme Court should have brought out 100 percent of the voters. Shame.