Florida high school shooting that killed 17 students has ignited the debate over gun control in the USA once again. It wasn’t quite the Valentine’s Day that students were expecting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. But on February 14, 2018, all of their lives were changed when suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz opened fire late during the school day. Now the survivors are left to wonder if this could have all been avoided, and the rest of the nation has to figure out a way to try to make sure this does not happen again.
Cruz was a 19 year-old former student at the school. It was evident that he spent much time planning his vicious attack. By the time the shooting ended, six minutes had passed. In its wake left 14 dead students, three dead staff members, many injured, and countless others traumatized by the heartless incident.
The suspect had always been recognized as someone with deep mental issues. In fact, the staff had been made aware of his possible danger to others when an email was circulated saying he was not allowed to carry a backpack with him on campus. Many students recounted tales of Cruz acting violent and strange over the years. He was later expelled by the school, and most people thought that would be the last they would see of him.
Cruz did not have a conventional upbringing. He was adopted at age two and his adopted father soon passed away. His adopted mother passed away a few months before the school shooting. He had been living with family and friends ever since her death. They were all aware of his mental health issues, but could not fathom he could quite do something like this. He had been seeing a counselor about his problems, but eventually quit going.
His family was aware that he had a fascination with weapons and that he owned guns. As we have seen too often, mental illness and firearms do not go well with one another. Cruz’s mother would call the police over to the house to try to get them to talk some sense into the boy, but it didn’t seem to help. In fact, they had been called to the home 39 times in the past seven years. This leaves many asking how was Nikolas Cruz allowed to have all of these guns when it was well known that he had mental issues. Couldn’t the police have taken away his firearms when they listened to his mother how he could be a danger to himself and others around him?
Even the FBI dropped the ball a couple times where if they would have acted correctly, all of this might have been avoided. The warning signs were all there, but officials were not acting. The Florida Department of Children and Families even investigated Cruz after social media posts, but assessed that he was not a risk. His YouTube videos have left many scratching their heads, wondering how he was never deemed a risk to others.
Anytime there is a school shooting of any sort, people come out of the woodwork proclaiming there has to be tougher gun laws. Cruz’s rifle that he used was purchased legally, giving people that want a ban on firearms an opportunity to preach their rhetoric. But the truth of the matter is that if someone wants to do something evil like a mass shooting, they will eventually find a way to get a hold of the guns needed. Chicago has some of the toughest gun laws of anywhere in the nation, and they are also one of the cities that has the most deaths, violence, and shootings.
Instead we all need to focus on the bigger picture. The warning signs were all in place for Nikolas Cruz. His family was concerned with his behavior. The police were called numerous times. The FBI was made aware, but failed to visit him or contact Cruz in any way. He was able to buy his rifle legally because there were not any red flags on his record that would warn otherwise. But there were worries, neighbors expressing concern, school officials being made aware, and still he slipped through our fingers and affected countless lives forever with his deadly act.
Other school headteachers are left to ponder how to ensure this does not happen to them. How do they protect their students and staff from school shooting? They all have lockdown procedures and Code Red warnings in place. They keep their doors accessing the school locked when they can. They teach their staff on what to do if an intruder comes into the school. However, no matter what procedures are in place, if someone wants to do something evil, they will. It is up to the parents, the community, the police, and the government to work together to find solutions. These shootings don’t just manifest themselves in one day. There is a lifetime of warnings that present themselves first. It is up to all of us to act on these warnings responsibly so we don’t have to point fingers when something like this happens.