Joe Henderson: A warning to the GOP: Parkland isn't going away - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: A warning to the GOP: Parkland isn’t going away

The Parkland kids and their determination to change the culture in Florida is the biggest X-factor in the primaries this month and in the November general election.

That much has become increasingly evident as the campaigns have wound their ways toward the citizens’ right to determine what kind of state we want to be. Parkland’s influence can be seen in the latest ads by Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Philip Levine

It showcased the endorsements the former Miami Beach Mayor received from the parents of Joaquin Oliver and Jaime Guttenberg — students who lost their lives during the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

That’s after Democrat Jeff Greene also invoked Parkland in a recent ad, while Democratic front-runner Gwen Graham has promised to issue an executive order as Governor that would ban the sale of assault-style weapons like the one used at Parkland.

Democratic candidates Chris King and Andrew Gillum have made similar gun-control pitches as part of their basic platforms. 

At this point, it should be clear to Republicans and their NRA supporters that just shouting “Second Amendment rights” might not cut it this time. The memory of 17 funerals at Parkland, including 14 students, remains fresh and raw.

The backlash put Adam Putnam into full retreat in the Republican gubernatorial race as he sought to distance himself from the dreadful “proud NRA sellout” line. And Ron DeSantis, the current GOP front-runner, has embraced the expansive gun rights agenda championed by the NRA.

While the Second Amendment isn’t on the ballot in November, the emphasis it will be given by state government really is front and center.

Some Republicans, regrettably, have trashed Parkland survivors who spoke out for stronger gun laws in the wake of the slaughter. None were worse than state Rep. Elizabeth Porter of Lake City, who dismissed them as ill-prepared children who should trust the, ahem, “wisdom” of the adults in Tallahassee.

“We’ve been told that we need to listen to the children and do what the children ask,” she said on the state house floor. “Are there any children on this floor? Are there any children making laws?

“Do we allow the children to tell us that we should pass a law that says ’no homework’? Or you finish high school at the age of 12 just because they want it so? No.”

And then, oh dear, she went on to say. “The adults make the laws because we have the age, we have the wisdom, and we have the experience.”

Tell you what, Ms. Porter. These “children” as you so blithely dismiss them have the “experience” and “wisdom” of living through a horrific experience no person should ever have to endure.

They have the “experience” and “wisdom” of attending funerals of their high-school classmates while you slurped at the trough of the NRA.

But it was exactly that kind of “oh child” back-of-the-hand dismissal of the Parkland kids that has led to this showdown. It has been nearly six months since Parkland, and, sadly, in many other events of mass killing that has been more than enough time for the memory to fade from the public consciousness.

Don’t think it’s gonna happen this time, though.

Those kids aren’t going away.

Parkland isn’t going away.

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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