After the Parkland massacre, despite the extended media coverage, gun reform advocates faced at least three key challenges. The need included: keeping the issue in the news; framing the threat beyond the suffering of the largely white, and more well-to-do Stoneman Douglas kids; and expanding support for gun reform beyond liberals, and blue vs. red. Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s gun safety roundtable, held in South Florida this week, visually achieved all three. (Here is the Getty edit, while the AP distributed photos nationally from the South Florida Sun-Sentinal.)
In attendance at the meeting in a cramped school room were Florida mayors, community leaders, school board members, police officers, clergy, and students. You can see how the photos connect the dots.
In this photo, you see 17-year-old Mei-Ling Ho-Shing, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas student and shooting survivor, addressing the attendees.
If you’ve been following the Stoneman Douglas teens on TV and social media, the faces you’ve seen have been largely white or Hispanic. (The racial makeup of the school, according to Start Class, is 61% white, 18% Hispanic and 11% African-American. That’s compared to the respective Florida state averages of 40%, 31% and 23%.) The Parkland students, by the way, as they’ve worked to turn their grief and anger into an organized movement, have been well aware that their school, and the Parkland community, are outliers when it comes to the geography and the demographics of gun violence.
That’s where this photo comes in:
With Ho-Shing to the right, Wasserman Schultz is flanked on the left by another young woman named Megan Hobson. Now 22, Megan was shot in the pelvis by a high powered rifle during a shooting in her Miami Gardens neighborhood when she was 16. In bookending the congresswoman, the two youths link the Parkland school shooting to all the grievous injuries and death by firearms suffered in the communities across America, especially African-American communities.
That makes perfect sense given the statistics, including the fact that African-Americans (making up 14% of the population) account for close to half the country’s homicide victims, black men being 13 times more likely than non-Hispanic white men to be shot and killed with guns. That’s in tandem with the fact that school shootings account for a fraction of mass shootings. 63% of mass shootings, (defined as 4 fatalities or more), for example, actually take place in the home. Obsessed as the media and the public is right now with shootings at schools, the overwhelming focus of the current debate seems laced with denial as well as latent prejudice.
And here’s the other pivot in the meeting visuals:
In the photo, we see Mei-Ling Ho-Shing paired with a Fort Lauderdale builder and a lifetime NRA member, Jim Cummings. His presence at the meeting was particularly noted in this health news report published by the University of South Florida.
In addressing the gathering, Cummings expressed the view that the gun organization was letting down sportsmen like himself by its blanket opposition to gun control. Sharing a downcast look with Mei-Ling, this photo broadens the case and the coalition that much more.
Through these images, the impetus for change transcends race, schools, or where in the political and gun-owning spectrum a citizen happens to fall. Some would call that an effective media narrative. Others would say it simply mirrors a crisis, and it’s response, reaching critical mass.
— Michael Shaw
(Photos: Joe Raedle/Getty Images. Caption 1: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting survivor Mei-Ling Ho-Shing,17, arrives to speak to the me gun safety roundtable discussion on March 5, 2018 in Sunrise, Florida. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) held the roundtable discussion in response to the shooting at the high school that killed 17 people on February 14; Caption 2:Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting survivor Mei-Ling Ho-Shing,17, speaks to the media after a gun safety roundtable discussion on March 5, 2018 in Sunrise, Florida; Caption 3: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) speaks to the media as Megan Hobson (L), who survived after being shot with an AK-47 when she was 16 years old, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting survivor Mei-Ling Ho-Shing,17, (R) stand behind her after a gun safety roundtable discussion on March 5, 2018 in Sunrise, Florida; Caption 4: NRA member Jim Cummings (L) walks past Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting survivor Mei-Ling Ho-Shing,17, after speaking to the media after a gun safety roundtable discussion on March 5, 2018 in Sunrise, Florida.)