"Our kids have started a revolution," exclaimed a teacher from the Parkland, Fla., high school that was the site of 17 gun murders. She was speaking at a CNN town hall Wednesday night, where the surging emotions of parents, teachers and students could barely be contained.
The kids were impressive. Fresh, uncorrupted minds scorning the warped psyche of the National Rifle Association. They were articulate, reasoned and determined – determined to take down the sickening gun culture in their country.
"Will you not accept a single donation from the NRA?" a student asked Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who has bathed in bucks from that organization for so long. He dodged and weaved. He stood there like a sick dog.
He wouldn't detach himself from the NRA. But he endorsed higher age limits for purchasing rifles and he appeared to recognize that it was different this time, that something big was afoot, that students, as he put it, were bringing change "to the way we talk about politics in this country."
Earlier in the day, the high schoolers poured into the Florida state capital of Tallahassee to shout down Governor Rick Scott, a gun-rights toadie who later chickened out of appearing at the town hall.
President Donald Trump held a listening session at the White House. A man whose daughter was killed at the school asked: "How many children have to get shot" before he takes action?
Massacres give rise to movements. Other school calamities such as Columbine and Sandy Hook didn't seem to be enough. But the Parkland murders may mark a turning point. The rage is too hot to contain. If not a revolution, as the teacher labelled it, then a deep attitudinal shift in the way the country views guns appears to be in the making.
The "Never Again" movement, as it is called, could mark the second great cultural reform, along with #MeToo, to shake the United States in the space of a few months.
Youth hasn't been heard from in a momentous way in the United States in a long time. College students kept marching until they became a potent force in ending the Vietnam war a half-century ago. Now an even younger cohort mans the ramparts with visceral passion.
The question is, how long can the momentum be sustained? Will this whole thing peter out within a month or two, after lawmakers agree to a couple of smallish gun-control reforms that appease the appalled?
For the kids to sustain the drive and bring real change, they need broad support, a shift in the public mood of the type that finally came in the war in Southeast Asia with the Tet Offensive.
Parkland follows a rash of other mass gun killings in the United States. The magnitude of the carnage has shaken the country, diminishing fealty to the antiquated 230-year-old second amendment that allows the bearing of arms.
Two-thirds of the American population now favour stricter gun laws. A large majority support a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons. No less than 97 per cent want universal background checks.
At the White House, the man confronting Mr. Trump was Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow's life was ended by nine bullets. "It stops here, with this administration and me," Mr. Pollack said, "because I'm not going to sleep until it's fixed."
Mr. Trump, whose election campaign received about US$30-million from the NRA and who has unsurprisingly been an avid supporter, has made pledges in the wake of Parkland on measures such as strengthening background checks and raising the minimum age for gun purchases.
But it will be of considerable political risk for him not to do more. It's a left-right issue. Democrats stand to make political gains if the tide against the ready availability of weapons of war, as the students are calling them, continues to rise.
It's not a given. The NRA is digging in, showing no spirit of compromise. Right-wing media commentators such as Tucker Carlson are arguing that gun-control advocates and the left media are taking advantage of emotionally charged teenagers, "using the kids in a kind of moral blackmail."
That's the type of rubbish the Never Again movement is up against.
With youth politically awakened, the Parkland massacre marks a transition point in the gun-rights debate. Whether it can amount to a turning point is another question.