On PM Tampa Bay this past week I spoke with the Tampa and St. Pete organizers of March For Our Lives. Thousands of students from Bay area schools will be participating in the rallies and marches, in addition to the hundreds of thousands that will participate nationwide. I wanted to find out why they became active in this issue, what they had planned this weekend and what they hoped to accomplish. Their civic engagement and activism should be applauded, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with their positions on certain policy issues. I pushed them on the inclusion of opposing views and some of the details of the proposals they're touting. They seemed open to hearing varying points of view, although all of the organizers seemed to want to approach gun violence in the same way. When I pressed them on specifics about certain types of guns they'd like to ban, they struggled with the details, something I expected.
What I tried to convey to them was that with a major platform comes great responsibility. I encouraged them to study the issue further because good, effective legislation requires detailed knowledge of the issue. I also stressed to them the need to keep the marches civil. Extreme rhetoric doesn't help their cause, it just turns reasonable people away.
Some callers expressed frustration with the views of the students, citing statistics that they believed make the case against further gun reform. One thing to keep in mind this weekend as we watch all of these young people march is that views and positions change over time as people learn more about issues and have new life experiences of their own. It's also important to keep in mind that there is a major divide in this country on how we deal with guns, with a large number pushing for more reforms and others pushing to loosen certain laws. I've seen and studied the cases both sides make and on this issue reasonable people will often disagree. We are a unique country and I'm more convinced now than ever that we'll have to get creative and utilize solutions that both sides offer in order to make a real impact.
Below you'll find the interviews with the St. Pete and Tampa organizers. I hope you give them a listen, with an open mind, and at least applaud the students for getting involved. If you disagree with them, keep fighting your fight and make a compelling case for your position. That's how you grow support and enact change. Hashing out our disagreements on the gun issue can be messy and it certainly isn't easy, but it's a debate we need to have.
- Ryan Gorman