Following the Parkland, Florida, school shooting that killed 17 people, students have stepped up to the plate to say enough is enough — it's time for stricter gun control. And as they gain national attention, it's becoming clear that young people can have a spot at the table. One Florida lawmaker, however, is outspokenly defiant. On Tuesday, Florida Rep. Elizabeth Porter chastised Parkland teens for even thinking that they could influence gun laws. After all, she suggested, that's a job for adults.
On Tuesday, before new gun control legislation went up for a vote, Porter essentially argued that the Parkland students are pursuing a lost cause when it comes to influencing policy. At least that's her opinion. She said,
We've been told that we need to listen to the children and do what the children ask. 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. The adults make the laws because we have the age, we have the wisdom and we have the experience.
While it's true that high school students can't necessarily run for office, the fact that they're standing up to powerful politicians and voicing their opinions is pretty admirable, no matter what political beliefs you hold. On top of that, their activism is inspiring other kids to becoming more active in politics and aware of the legislation that affects them. You'd think legislators would believe that type of attitude bolsters democracy.
Porter isn't convinced. Instead of congratulating the students for speaking out, even if she doesn't agree with them, she shut them down. According to her, they don't deserve a spot at the table because they aren't adults.
But it's going to take much more to ward off Parkland student activists. Emma Gonzalez, for one, tweeted, "Sorry if you think we want you to pass laws protecting us 'just because we feel like it.'"
On Wednesday, the day after Porter spoke in front of Florida's House of Representatives, the state approved new gun legislation that signals even bigger changes could be on the horizon. And it's possible that contrary to what Porter suggested, Parkland teens did help make it happen. The Orlando Sentinel reported it's the first time in 20 years that such legislation was passed under a Republican-controlled House.
It's worth noting the legislation wasn't exactly what a lot of gun control advocates had hoped for. Though the bill would raise the minimum age at which you can buy a firearm from 18 to 21, mandate a three-day waiting period before buying a gun, ban bump stocks, and fund more mental health services at schools, it would also allow some school employees to be armed. And that last part, as you can imagine, is extremely controversial. One father of a Parkland victim, however, noted in front of the House that it's "better than nothing."
But the bill hasn't officially become law just yet. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has to sign it first, and he hasn't disclosed his thoughts yet. ABC News reported that he said, "I'm going to take the time and I'm going to read the bill and I'm going to talk to families." For what it's worth, Trump has encouraged him to sign off on the piece of legislation, calling it "very good."
Ultimately, the bill on the governor's desk might not be the exact one that Parkland students wanted to see. Even so, they're part of the reason gun control is being so seriously discussed in the first place. And perhaps Porter would gain more followers if she acknowledged that.