Dan Smith Jr. (left) and Daryl Metcalfe (rigth)
On Feb. 14, 17 students and teachers were killed in a mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla. In response, Florida students are organizing walkouts and protests, hoping to encourage legislators to pass more gun-control measures, and their efforts are being joined from high school students across the country.
On Feb. 21, more than 100 students
from the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School, Downtown, joined the effort by walking out and marching to Market Square.
But for Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe
(R-Cranberry), those students are just left-wing agitators.
On Feb. 21, Metcalfe posted on his official state Rep. Facebook account: “I enlisted in the U.S. Army at 17 years old. This morning I was working out and listening to the news about 'students' being bused [into] the Florida Capitol. The hypocrisy of the left struck me! They expect lawmakers to listen to the policy advice of 18 year old and younger 'students' who are advocating for gun control, but they do not believe 18 year olds who are old enough to serve on the battlefields of Afghanistan are old enough to purchase a rifle.”
Metcalfe has shown a pattern on social media of following far-right messaging
techniques. And by calling the Florida high-schoolers “‘students' being bused [into] the Florida Capitol,” he appears to be imitating other far-right media organizations
in attempting to delegitimatize the advocacy of the Florida students. The Gateway Pundit, a far-right media website that has been accused of publishing conspiracy theories, ran a story on Feb. 19 accusing one of the Parkland students of being coached on anti-gun rhetoric by the student’s father, a retired FBI agent.
Metcalfe’s 2018 election opponent, Dan Smith Jr.
(D-Mars), was critical of Metcalfe and his attempt to delegitimatize the students.
“My opponent is trying to distract us with misguided, [ageist] statements that avoid the real point of gun safety,” wrote Smith in a Feb. 21 Facebook post
. “It is outrageous to compare high school kids to combatants on the battlefield. Students, regardless of age, go to school to learn and when they are at school we expect them to be safe.”
Smith called for guns to stay out of schools in the aftermath of the Parkland mass shooting. “We must be willing to do everything in our power to make sure guns have no place in our schools,” wrote Smith on Facebook.
Smith followed up in an email to City Paper
, writing that Metcalfe is again focusing on national issues, instead of focusing on local issues affecting his constituents in the state House District 12.
"This proves, once again, rather than working to recognize and improve local issues with local leaders, [Metcalfe] strays from the job he was voted to do and focuses on far-right, hate-filled national issues with divisive comments that continue to embarrass the proud residents of PA House District 12," wrote Smith. "This has made me more determined than ever to strengthen my campaign to provide the representation PA House District 12 deserves!"
Metcalfe’s statement also caused waves among Pennsylvanians, including some of his constituents. As of this time, his Facebook post had more than 430 “angry” replies, and more than 920 comments.
One commenter, Michele Lombardo, a Metcalfe constituent according to Facebook, wrote “[The] Hypocrisy from the right is astounding. Wanting to call these kids, who have been traumatized by a mass shooting that the NRA owned republicans don’t want to do anything about, lazy millennials, but turn around and tell them [to] shut up because they are taking action by peacefully protesting. Just remember that in these next few years, these kids are going to be voting. Guess who won’t be getting their votes. I support and stand with these kids!”
According to campaign-contribution-tracking website Follow the Money, Metcalfe has received more than $7,400 in campaign contributions from Firearm Owners Against Crime
, which the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
describes as "a gun-rights political action committee whose statewide influence arguably ranks alongside that of the National Rifle Association."
Metcalfe's comment also caused a stir among some Democratic state legislators. State Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia), the first openly gay state rep elected in Pennsylvania, has battled with Metcalfe before over same-sex marriage and other issues. Sims wrote on Facebook that Metcalfe's comments were "twisted" and "ghoulish," for attacking the advocacy efforts of teenagers. Sims also endorsed Smith
on Facebook shortly after Metcalfe's post.
A call to Metcalfe's campaign was not returned.