TAK­ING ON THE US GUN LOBBY

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROBERT PHILPOT

IT WAS the mo­ment the sur­vivors of Amer­ica’s plague of deadly school shoot­ings got to have their say.

One week af­ter the mur­der of 14 stu­dents and three of their teach­ers at Florida’s Mar­jory Stone­man High School in Park­land on Valen­tine’s Day, Cameron Kasky con­fronted Florida Sen­a­tor Marco Ru­bio dur­ing a na­tion­ally tele­vised de­bate.

“Can you tell me right now that you will not ac­cept a sin­gle dona­tion from the NRA [Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion]?” asked the Jewish teenager, who had been leav­ing a drama class when Niko­las Cruz be­gan his killing spree.

Amid jeers and boos from the town hall au­di­ence, and un­der in­ces­sant que­ston­ing from the 17-year-old, Mr Ru­bio re­fused to rule out fill­ing his cam­paign cof­fers with dol­lars from Amer­ica’s po­lit­i­cally pow­er­ful gun lobby.

Last month, Cameron’s fa­ther helped launch a cam­paign de­signed to en­sure that US politi­cians such as the one-time pres­i­den­tial as­pi­rant pay a price for con­tin­u­ing to ac­cept the NRA’s largesse.

“NRA-sup­port­ing politi­cians have a de­ci­sion to make: do they want to ac­cept the NRA’s filthy blood money?” asked Jeff Kasky, a co-founder of Fam­i­lies vs As­sault Ri­fles. “If they do, we will shine a big fat spot­light on the fact that they are sell­ing their vote to a ne­far­i­ous, un­prin­ci­pled or­gan­i­sa­tion that ex­ists only to en­rich its ex­ec­u­tive board. It’s a vi­cious cy­cle be­tween cer­tain politi­cians and the NRA — and we are go­ing to break that cy­cle.”

The or­gan­i­sa­tion plans to “re­move the NRA from our po­lit­i­cal sys­tem” and then fight for gun-con­trol poli­cies by amend­ing the Na­tional Firearms Act of 1934 to ban, among other things, as­sault weapons.

It is so­lic­it­ing $17 (£12.60) do­na­tions from the pub­lic, one dol­lar for each life lost in the Park­land shoot­ing.

Al­though the po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee will not en­dorse can­di­dates, it will flood the air­waves in the run-up to Novem­ber’s mid-term elec­tions with neg­a­tive ad­ver­tis­ing aimed at can­di­dates sup­ported by the NRA.

The NRA is of­fi­cially non-par­ti­san, but nearly 99 per cent of its vast war chest was spent back­ing Repub­li­can can­di­dates, who over­whelm­ingly op­pose gun con­trol leg­is­la­tion, in the 2016 con­gres­sional elec­tions.

De­pend­ing on how suc­cess­ful it is, Fam­i­lies vs As­sault Ri­fles may help to bol­ster the Democrats in what is ex­pected to be a dif­fi­cult year for Pres­i­dent Trump’s Repub­li­can party. Cameron Kasky shot to recog­ni­tion when he quizzed Marco Ru­bio

The elder Mr Kasky said that fi­nan­cial back­ers have al­ready com­mit­ted to give “mul­ti­ples” of the do­na­tions the group re­ceives.

“Wait un­til you see what we have in store for the NRA,” he pro­claimed.

Thanks to the ef­forts of Mr Kasky’s son and fel­low Park­land stu­dents, the gun lobby is on the back foot for the first time since Bill Clin­ton pushed a ban on as­sault weapons (which was later rolled back by Ge­orge W Bush) through Congress nearly 25 years ago.

Cameron brought friends to­gether at his home to set up the Never Again move­ment in the hours af­ter the shoot­ings. They soon joined other Park­land stu­dents who had be­gun to at­tract the at­ten­tion of the news me­dia. Af­ter just over a month, Never Again had helped mo­bilise more than one mil­lion peo­ple to take to the streets of 62 Amer­i­can cities in the March for Our Lives, which drew crowds of 200,000 to Wash­ing­ton and 175,000 in New York.

Cameron’s feisti­ness has been on dis­play from the out­set.

“I’m safe,” he wrote on Facebook two hours af­ter he had col­lected his brother, who has spe­cial needs, from his class­room as Cruz ram­paged through their school. “Thank you to all the sec­ond amend­ment war­riors who pro­tected me,” he con­tin­ued, ref­er­enc­ing the clause in the US con­sti­tu­tion which gun ad­vo­cates claim pro­tects their right to bear arms.

When Mr Trump ad­dressed the NRA last month and pledged his fealty to the or­gan­i­sa­tion, thus break­ing a com­mit­ment to con­sider tighter gun laws made to the fam­i­lies in the wake of the shoot­ings, Cameron ac­cused the pres­i­dent of be­ing “a pro­fes­sional liar who will say any­thing to ap­pease what­ever crowd he’s at”.

Such out­spo­ke­ness has brought death threats from the far right and con­spir­acy the­o­rist claims that Cameron and other Never Again founders are sim­ply “cri­sis ac­tors”.

Ques­tioned by the me­dia on the charges, the sassy teen had an an­swer for that too: “Well, if you had seen me in our school’s pro­duc­tion of Fid­dler on the Roof, you would know that no­body would pay me to act for any­thing.”

One month later, they mo­bilised a mil­lion peo­ple

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

Cameron Kasky at a rally in March

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.