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Carl Hiassen: Don't let 'em off the hook, Parkland teens

| Monday, March 5, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students Bela Urbina, left, and Katherine Guerra, both 15-year-old sophomores, speak and react during a Florida Senate Rules Committee meeting on gun safety at the Florida Capitol after the Rally in Tally in Tallahassee, Fla., Feb. 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students Bela Urbina, left, and Katherine Guerra, both 15-year-old sophomores, speak and react during a Florida Senate Rules Committee meeting on gun safety at the Florida Capitol after the Rally in Tally in Tallahassee, Fla., Feb. 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

MIAMI

To all those Florida students who walked out, marched, rode the bus to Tallahassee, confronted lawmakers, sat down with President Donald Trump or braced Marco Rubio on national television: You're making an impact. And you're making them nervous, because you're not going away.

They outlasted the backlash after the Pulse nightclub slaughter. The Texas church killings seemingly vanished from the headlines within a week. The Las Vegas massacre produced a flurry of angst about bump stocks, then nothing. Even the outcry after Newtown in 2012 lost steam, sapped by brutal ongoing grief and political futility.

However, there's a key difference between the Parkland and Newtown tragedies: The classmates of the Sandy Hook Elementary School victims were too young to take their pain public.

To those from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Senior High who sat in the balcony of the state House of Representatives last month: You got a depressing but instructive civics lesson. Republican legislators warned against the dangers of porn, yet refused to discuss banning assault rifles of the type used to kill 17 at your school.

You witnessed firsthand how lawmakers squirm and sweat when real citizens show up. They're accustomed to glancing up at that balcony and seeing insiders and lobbyists — not angry, heartbroken kids.

To those who got to ask Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran if he'd support a ban on assault weapons, you heard something illuminating: He said “No,” explaining: “I think that if you look, it's widely used in multiple different hunting scenarios. I know people who go out, and they'll do boar hunts and use them.” In other words, folks who like to shoot wild pigs with high-caliber semiautomatic rifles shouldn't be denied their sporting fun just because crazed people use the same type of weapons to shoot humans in schools and churches and movie theaters.

Corcoran is running for governor this year. You might not yet be old enough to vote against him, but your parents are.

And to those thousands of parents — and students — at CNN's town hall, you accomplished something historic: You actually got Rubio to take a position on a controversial issue.

The NRA's $3 million man agreed that 18-year-olds should be banned from purchasing AR-15s. Whether he follows through is something for you students to watch closely. If and when he runs for president, you'll be old enough to vote.

To those of all ages in the #NeverAgain movement: Look how you've got these guys scrambling. Corcoran and his counterparts in the Florida Senate are rushing out a package to tighten some laws on assault rifles.

After past bloodbaths, GOP leaders always bided their time, waiting for the voices of the grieving to fade away. Then they did nothing.

But your voices are getting louder and stronger, which is why these politicians are so nervous. They see that you're not alone, that students and parents from coast to coast are rising, outraged and galvanized.

So, to your awakening generation, from a generation that has failed: Don't ever go away. Don't ever be quiet. Don't ever let these cowards wriggle off the hook.

The fight will be long, rough and often discouraging, but the price of silence would be unbearable.

Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald.

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