Secondary BZ 031418 Weber High School Walkout 06-8

Hundreds of students at Weber High School leave class and head to the soccer field during a school walkout to honor the victims of the Parkland school shooting on Wednesday, March 14, 2018. While out of the classroom, student speakers read the names of those who died in Florida and called for a safer and friendly school environment.

I used to think a man with a gun wasn't afraid of anything.

I’m beginning to realize that it may be just the opposite. Because he seems to be afraid of darn near everything.

And chief among his current fears? Teenagers.

How else does one explain the reaction of gun owners toward the recent school walkouts?

On Wednesday, March 14, students at high schools across the country — including here in Utah — staged walkouts from their regularly scheduled classes to protest gun violence and honor the 17 lives lost in the Feb. 14 shooting in Florida. Apparently, the youth of America have finally had a gutful of their parents’ and grandparents’ inaction, and they’re expecting SOMEBODY to do SOMETHING about guns and violence. Right now.

RELATED: Utah students demand change as part of national walkouts

Meanwhile, the supposed grownups in the room are busy parsing the semantics of what 18th-century leaders meant when they wrote “well-regulated militia” and “shall not be abridged” into the Second Amendment.

It was both funny and sad to see gun owners’ fears projected on social media in the days leading up to the walkout. They ridiculed and mocked the youth as nothing more than Tide Pod eaters. They tried to intimidate them with warnings of being kicked out of school or not getting into a good college if they actually went through with the protest. They even attempted to co-opt the entire walkout movement by suggesting a “walkup” instead.

RELATED: NRA gave more than $120K to Utah groups, schools in 2016

That was my particular favorite. Gun owners insisting that rather than walking out to protest violence at the hands of people with guns, students should walk up to that loner classmate at school and befriend him.

Like he wouldn’t totally see through something that transparent.

Don’t get me wrong. More kindness in schools is a good thing, and it absolutely ought to be paired with other actions, like these walkouts. But grownups lecturing teenagers about “befriending” those who are different is about as hypocritical as it comes. Oh, you mean like you did when you were in junior high and high school? Listen, I attended public schools in the 1970s, and I know for a fact that teenagers back then were far less accepting of those who are “different” than kids today.

I understand gun owners’ fears. And they should be very afraid of young people taking a keen interest in gun violence. After all, some of the most important protest movements of the last century were powered in large part by youth. Civil Rights. Vietnam. Environmentalism.

And now, gun control.

We adults had our chance to place human life, liberty and happiness ahead of the Second Amendment. We made our choice. With any luck, our children will make better decisions.

That was always the plan: We would lead our children as best we could, and eventually we’d step aside and they would take the lead. It looks like that time is rapidly approaching.

Of course, some of us old codgers won’t relinquish control without a fight. In response to Wednesday’s student walkout, the National Rifle Association again showed its caring, sensitive side. On the day of the event, the organization tweeted a photo of an AR-15 (the type of weapon used in the Florida murders) accompanied by the words: “I’ll control my own guns, thank you.”

Yes, because you’ve done such a bang-up job of it so far.

That’s the funniest part of the NRA meme. There’s no “control” in any of this. Gun violence in America is completely out of control. And any time it’s suggested that maybe we need to figure out a way to get some kind of handle on firearms in this country, the NRA goes into cold-dead-hands mode.

Cold, dead hands. Who knew that the man who played Moses in the most famous Bible movie ever produced would turn out to be an actual prophet himself.

When Charlton Heston, as president of the NRA, held a rifle high above his head and uttered the now-famous “from my cold, dead hands” line, it wasn't some macho threat. Rather, Heston-the-Prophet had seen the future, and he was acknowledging how America would finally end up with sensible gun laws — when the older generations passed away, and the younger generations pried the outdated gun laws from our fossilized fingers.

So, yeah. I suppose no matter how many guns a man may have, he’s still desperately afraid of a bunch of unarmed teenagers.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.

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