Dana Loesch showed up. The face of the National Rifle Association (NRA) deserves credit for that, as does Republican Senator Marco Rubio.
They were both facing one of the most righteously angry crowds imaginable—survivors, friends, and family of the 17 victims of the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
In a CNN Town Hall held Wednesday, the students, parents, and some of the school's teachers hammered Sen. Rubio, peppering him with pointed questions about his positions on gun rights as well as donations from the NRA.
In one striking exchange, student Cameron Kasky—who seemed to respect the fact the senator attended—asked Rubio, "In the name of the 17 people who died, you can’t ask the NRA to keep their money?"
Rubio had no straightforward answer for this, but it was clear he took the students seriously and listened.
Dana Loesch has been known for her aggressive rhetoric in representing the NRA, but she seemed to dial it back—a bit—in order to speak with the students.
Loesch held the line on the NRA's position that the 2nd Amendment provides all Americans an unfettered right to arm themselves. But she faced one of the most fierce students to speak up following the shooting, Emma Gonzalez.
Gonzalez asked Loesch if she believed it shouldn't be so easy for anyone to purchase an AR-15, the weapon school shooter Nikolas Cruz used in his assault on Douglas High.
Loesch didn't answer directly, and Gonzalez asked again. Loesch thanked her for the question, but she seemed to evade it, correctly referring to Cruz as a monster and "nuts," but otherwise avoiding a straightforward reply.
Loesch was heckled by the town hall audience, but Twitter users both famous and unknown were merciless, and supportive of the students.
Though she was game enough to attend, Loesch—who is known for speaking hyperbolically—later said she felt threatened upon leaving.
Perhaps most surprising was when a member of law enforcement called Loesch out on some of her statements. Broward County sheriff Scott Israel noted that the spokesperson had told the crowd she was "standing up for them," then said, "You are not standing up for them until you say you want less weapons."
It turns out that President Donald Trump, who has expressed solid support for 2nd Amendment rights, may not entirely agree with Loesch and the NRA. After holding his own meeting with Douglas High survivors at the White House, the president was decisive in stating some changes were necessary.
When a solidly conservative president makes it clear he is adopting a position with which the NRA might not agree, it's easy to wonder if some kind of change is around the corner after all.