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Editorial: In for the long haul

In case anyone thought the brave, determined students who organized and took part in the weekend’s “March for Our Lives” protests were the harbingers of inevitable change, the reactions from some critics show the stony indifference some people have, even to the murders of teenagers.

The march, itself, was inspiring to any thoughtful person. Hundreds of thousands of people made their way to Washington to produce what may be the largest such event in the nation’s history, and over a matter that is deadly serious: an American culture that produces and then tolerates mass murders.

It wasn’t just Washington, either. Protests occurred around the country, including in Buffalo, and even around the world. About 3,000 people converged at City Hall to stake their claim for a life free from fear of violent, premature death.

They aren’t asking too much. Most of the country supports tougher gun control laws which, as the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once observed, can be entirely consistent with the Second Amendment.

Yet, a core group in the country, echoing the jingoism of the National Rifle Association, will have none of it. An NRATV host taunted the students on the night before the march, insisting that the only answer to gun violence is to arm more people. On CNN, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania said students should just learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation and other techniques to deal with bloodshed. Here in Buffalo, at least one counterprotester expressed a common, if regrettable, threat of implied violence by hoisting a flag emblazoned with the words “COME AND TAKE IT” and an image of a firearm. Where does that come from?

But this shouldn’t be hard to understand: The mass murders of students and other Americans by killers armed with weapons of war qualifies as a national crisis and requires a variety of responses. One, in fact, may be to post trained, armed officers in at least some schools. One should be to better harden schools against attackers. Those are ideas worth pursuing.

But only the willfully blind can avoid acknowledging that the guns, themselves, play a critical role in this blood-soaked catastrophe. Surely, we can do better.

The country needs to insist on thorough, consistent background checks and to keep weapons out of the hands of people who shouldn’t be near them, including felons and those suffering from mental illness. And it especially needs to restrict access to weapons whose only purpose is to kill as many people as quickly as possible.

The students and their supporters have done the country a favor, but they need to be ready for the long haul. They are already being smeared with the same kind of vicious lies that infect our national politics these days. They will need to be tough.

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