Rolly: Why are pro-gun forces so bent on attacking student protesters? It’s simple — the kids are winning.

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune Paul Rolly.

Groups of high school and middle school kids marching for their lives and their safety have struck fear into gun manufacturers and dealers desperate to discredit these articulate and impassioned teenagers.

Pro-gun forces have attacked the students as paid actors, brainwashed communists or naive tools. Those barbs have backfired, and the attackers have become the pariahs.

The kids, you see, are winning.

Take West High School senior Elizabeth Love, for example.

She decided to take action when students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., spurred a movement to stop gun violence after 17 of their classmates were gunned down in their classrooms.

Love is active in many academic endeavors at her school and is on her way to the Ivy League’s Columbia University in New York next fall. She became impassioned about school safety after 20 children and six adults were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., by an assault-rifle-wielding intruder.

She now is part of a national movement to end mass shootings through reasonable gun regulations such as universal background checks and a ban on assault rifles.

“I was in seventh grade when [Sandy Hook] happened,” she said, adding that it changed her world. “I kept waiting for something to happen with gun regulations but nothing happened.”

So when the kids from Parkland began organizing protests, Love took up the cause in Utah.

She says the March for Our Lives SLC movement has 20 chapters in high schools and middle schools across Utah. They are marching, spreading the word and — what may strike the most fear in the hearts of their adversaries — getting high school seniors registered to vote.

When last month’s march took place, 8,000 people participated. A counterprotest attracted about 1,000.

“They called us names,” Love said. “They said we were leftist power sluts. There were tons of insults.”

Because those foes were scared.

Love says the power of the movement is in its youth.

“They attack [advocates of gun control] by going after them personally, by demonizing them instead of attacking their ideas,” she said. “But they can’t get away with that with us, because we’re teenagers.”

The kids are winning.

When Utah students joined the push against gun violence, including a bold contingent from West High, the backlash was shrill.

Organized threads of personal insults began showing up on pro-gun-rights social media sites before one march even took place.

“On March 24, brainwashed high school students will march from West High to the state Capitol to demand gun confiscation (or whatever else is trendy at the time),” said one post promoting a counterdemonstration by pro-gun forces. “These kids are victims of the libsick school bureaucracy. They need to learn the truth about the ill bred and low IQ losers (administrators) who populate the SLCSD [Salt Lake City School District] offices.

“It is a horror story just walking through that place, every kind of freak known to mankind. They have five different types of bathrooms.”

I don’t know about you, but I would say the writer of that post is scared out of his or her wits.

Here’s another one:

“It will turn violent because these kids are being led by professional anti-gun people who will want pro-gun people hurt, and the pros won’t let it be peaceful. I’ve seen how the communists do this kind of crap in other countries and this is a classic setup.”

On the day of the scheduled march, someone launched a Facebook site called March for Our Lives in Salt Lake City and told the protesters to show up four hours later than the real time. This anonymous Facebook group was trying to sow confusion to dampen participation.

After the march, hundreds of March for Our Lives SLC lawn signs were distributed to sympathizers. Many were stolen as soon as they went up in neighborhood yards.

Several members of the Gun Violence Prevention Center shared on their Facebook pages stories about the signs disappearing. One member, Gary Sackett, posted a note about missing signs in his Olympus Hills area:

“For the person who stole a lawn sign from my home: My lawn-sign message that assault weapons don’t belong in the hands of civilians would not have been seen by all that many people,” he wrote. “But your thievery has prompted me to post this message to ask you to return it. You might see the irony in the fact that now hundreds more people will see the message than if you’d left my sign alone.”

Yep, the kids are winning.