Students march in support of gun reform legislation, February 21, 2018 (Getty/Win McNamee)

The Parkland wake-up moment

Sen. Marco Rubio is getting viciously owned by teenagers who are smarter than he is


Jeremy Binckes
March 4, 2018 1:00PM (UTC)

The best moment in the classic 1975 film "Jaws" didn't happen in the water, and had very little to do with the movie's titular shark. (Warning: spoilers follow for a 40-year-old film you should have already seen.) The moment I'm talking about is when Alex Kintner's mother — coming from her son's funeral — walks up to the protagonist, police chief Martin Brody, and slaps him in the face because he failed to act despite knowing of the clear and present danger posed by the monstrous shark lurking off the coast.

Now, imagine if Kintner's mother, with the same raw emotion, went on national TV for about a week, telling everyone who would listen that Amity Island was being run by a politician loyal to businesses who made their money off beachgoers — shark attacks be damned.

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That pretty much sums up the state of the gun debate in the United States. Survivors of the Parkland, Florida, shooting are taking their message nationally. With their emotional pleas, they're talking straight to the American public. And the movement has been gaining traction throughout the United States. They're technologically savvy and experts at public relations.

They've found their Police Chief Brody, and it's Sen. Marco Rubio.

http://twitter.com/sofiewhitney/status/968926467903148032

Rubio — one of the state's top elected representatives — arguably had the worst of the GOP reactions to the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Unlike Florida Gov. Rick Scott, another Republican, Rubio hasn't had a concrete legislative proposal for combatting gun violence, not even an NRA-friendly one. Initially, Rubio told the father of a slain student last week, "I absolutely believe that in this country, if you are 18 years of age you should not be able to buy a rifle. I will support a law that takes that right away."

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This being Marco Rubio, a course correction was inevitable. Indeed, according to the Tampa Bay Times, Rubio had helped introduce a bill — twice — that would do the opposite. Here's what the Times had to say:

But one of Rubio's own bills, which he has introduced twice, would overturn an assault weapons ban and legalize gun sales for young adults in the nation's capital, allowing 18- to 21-year-olds in Washington, D.C., to purchase weapons like the AR-15 used in the Parkland shooting if federal law doesn't change.

Were this a shark off the Florida coast, Rubio's bill is tantamount to replacing the "No swimming" warnings with hand-painted signs saying "Come on in, the water's great!" and pointing swimmers to the raft rental shop.

President Donald Trump, of course, would be Amity Island's mayor, a man who doesn't want to confront the problem; who wants to smile and be an empty suit while meeting with victims, victims who would later say they were unimpressed with his visit.

Of course, this isn't the movies. There's no heroic protagonist who can and will take on guns by themselves.  (And indeed, this "Jaws" analogy ironically falls short, given that a gun killed the shark.) But someone did eventually send a message that the way things were wasn't good enough, and things need to change.

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Jeremy Binckes

Jeremy Binckes is the senior news editor at Salon.com.

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